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Antarctic Beech
Base of trees in Numinbah Nature Reserve, Australia
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fagales
Family: Nothofagaceae
Genus: Nothofagus
Species: N. moorei
Binomial name
Nothofagus moorei
(F. Muell.) Krasser

Nothofagus moorei, is an important Gondwana relict of the rainforests of the southern hemisphere. It occurs in wet, fire free areas at high altitude in eastern Australia.

Once referred to as 'Negrohead beech', but now as 'Antarctic beech' (not to be confused with its South American relative, Nothofagus antarctica) is an evergreen tree native to the eastern highlands of Australia.

Contents

Habitat

It grows in cool temperate rainforests from the Barrington Tops plateau in New South Wales, north to the Lamington Plateau and Springbrook Plateau, in southern Queensland, between altitudes of 500 m and 1550 m.[1]. It occurs in temperate to cool temperatures and with occasional snowfalls. Nothofagus moorei achieves its finest development at Werrikimbe National Park and Mount Banda Banda. [2]

Characteristics

Enormous Antarctic Beech at Cobark Park, Barrington Tops. 50 metres tall

These trees typically grow to 25 m tall and have large trunks to 1 m in diameter with scaly, dark brown bark. Maximum height is about 50 m. The leaves are simple and alternate, growing six centimeters long.[3] The leaf color is dark green, with new growth brilliant red, or orange in spring. The tree is partially deciduous, dropping half its leaves in autumn. They are triangular with fine teeth. The flowers are inconspicuous yellow-green catkins. The fruit, produced from December to February, are a capsule of four prickly valves containing three small winged nuts.

Complicated root structures are frequently exhibited. These roots would once have been soil-covered, but have been exposed over the ages by erosion, and covered in moss and lichen. Many of the trees have multiple trunks eminating from a crown, formed by this root structure. [1]

It regenerates easily after fires.

History

Many individuals are extremely old, and at one time it was believed that the Eastern Australian populations could not reproduce in present-day conditions, except by suckering (Asexual reproduction), being remnant forest from a cooler time. It has since been shown that sexual reproduction may occur [2], but distribution in cool, isolated high-altitude environments at temperate and tropical latitudes is consistent with the theory that the species was more prolific in a cooler age. [3] The pattern of distribution around the southern Pacific Ocean rim has fed speculation that the dissemination of the genus dates to the time when Antarctica, Australia and South America were connected, the theoretical common land-mass referred to as Gondwana. [4]

It is an ornamental tree and cultivated specimens tolerate −7°C (19°F), though wild plants growing on Barrington Tops have withstood record low temperatures of −17°C (1ºF), no source provenance have been selected from there and other mountains, highlands or plateaus for cultivation.[4]

Antarctic Beech at Mount Banda Banda
Antarctic Beech Trees in Lamington National Park

See also

References

  1. ^ "Barrington Tops". http://www.bio.mq.edu.au/ecology/abasden/Barrington.html. Retrieved 2007-08-17.  
  2. ^ * New South Wales Rainforests - The Nomination for the World Heritage List, Paul Adam, 1987. ISBN 0 7305 2075 7
  3. ^ "Nothofagus moorei". http://www.yallaroo.com.au/Nothofagus_moorei.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-17.  
  4. ^ Zoete, T. (2000) Vegetation survey of the Barrington Tops and Mount Royal National Parks for use in fire management. Cunninghamia 6, 511-578.
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