The Booyong Rainforest ….

When you enter into the rainforest at Booyong it’s like another world and we are looking forward to sharing our property with the visitors at Farm Gate tour next weekend. Rays of sunlight shine through from the canopy above. It’s especially beautiful early on misty mornings when the moss on fallen tree stumps glisten. As the sun begins to shine, you can hear the sounds of various birds amongst the tree tops – it’s paradise to me and I love it!

Within a rainforest, temperature and fluctuations are less. This is due to the protection provided by the tree tops, which makes moisture levels, remain high and air movement considerably reduced. This creates a special environment that is suited to native flora that is able to regenerate under shade and includes vines, buttresses, palms and ground ferns.

A closed canopy of rainforest excludes at least 70 percent of the sky and we’ve discovered that to get the best impression you can’t beat a night walk with a torch, it’s incredible and gives you a real sense of dense the rainforest canopy is. Look out for mammals too as they are most active at night and include possums, bats and sugar gliders. If you take a torch you will see them by the red of their eyes!

Whilst rainforests only cover 0.25% of our continent, they contain almost half of all Australian species including about a third of Australia’s birds and mammals. This is incredible and well worth fighting to maintain and protect. Rainforests are at risk due to logging, weed invasion, fire, cattle grazing and farm development.

Plant establishment is dependent upon the introduction of plants from seed sources including birds and animals and seeds can remain dormant for years until the conditions are just right. Birds devour insects and the fruits of the rainforest and include Bower birds, Brush turkey’s  scrub birds, lyrebirds and parrots. Birds of prey including hawks and owls are also present at Booyong and feed on small mammals of the rainforest. Frogs are also suited to the rainforest environment and can be found in the 8 dams of Booyong. In spring and summer the sounds of the frogs are magical!

Animals are found in all areas, from the canopy to the deep leaf litter on the forest floor. Animals assist in pollination and the breaking down of plant and animal debris recycling nutrients back into the soil. In summer you may also see red-bellied black snake which comes into the rainforest via tracks and creek beds.

Rainforest plants are able to conserve nutrients by removing them before they shed, absorbing nutrients washed down from higher leaves, taking nutrients from epiphytes, aerial roots tapping nutrients from organic matter within the canopy, shallow roots that can take up nutrients from leaf litter and fungi within the leaf litter. The fungi are spectacular within the rainforest, especially after rain. The colours and textures are extraordinary and I’m looking forward to learning more about them, they truly fascinate me!

Rainforests favour areas of high rainfall that is evenly distributed throughout the year. They like sheltered eastern and southern aspects.

At Booyong we have both subtropical and dry rainforest areas. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service’s definition of a subtropical rainforest includes a warm moist habitat of fertile soils with an annual rainfall of 1300mm. In Wauchope the climate is mild, and generally warm and temperate with an average annual temperature of 18.0 °C and rainfall average of 1392 mm. Two or three tree strata including a multilayered billowing canopy, ten to sixteen tree species, mostly compound tree leaves, stranglers, palms, plank buttresses, epiphytes (a plant that grows harmlessly upon another plant). This description sums up the subtropical rainforest at Booyong beautifully.

On the Hilltop climb at the rear of the property you will find the dry rainforest, an environment of fewer large trees and more shrubs and species within the lower canopy. Palms and epiphytes are rare and herbaceous ground cover sparser. You can feel the difference as you leave the rainforest and walk up the hill, each area holds its own distinct beauty and we are truly blessed to have both.

Terry from Landcare visited recently and said the rainforest at Booyong was quite young. This initially surprised me as it seems so established to me, however as I’ve researched rainforests I can see why the commitment to making an area a Conservation property is permanent and the establishment of a mature rainforest takes 100’s of years. The process of regeneration is complex and involves a multitude of relationships between the plants and animals at Booyong. The greatest thing we can do is to not disturb or interfere with the conservation area. The trees can establish a canopy which will stimulate growth of seedlings and understory that will eventually close the gaps and stop weeds from entering the property. Until this time we will need to be vigilant to exotic weeds entering the conservation area.

We are very happy with the areas of Booyong. Dave and Beryl have done an incredible job of keeping the weeds at Bay. They have replanted a variety of species within the old kiwi fruit farm and whilst they are not all ideal and local to the area they are coming along nicely and will over time create a dense canopy to keep weeds and exotic species at bay. Until this time, we will vigilantly weed and maintain the area.

Plants in rainforest are generally not able to sustain fire and if one were to occur at Booyong it would most likely push back the forest boundary which would reduce the rainforest area until rejuvenated so we will maintain the firebreaks to protect the property where we can.

Whilst I don’t know what the future holds, I hope we can as a family keep the property for generations and enable an established forest to exist. I have a great appreciation of how much it meant for Dave and Beryl to pass their beloved Booyong on to us and we intend to honour their commitment and dedication over our lifetime.

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