Tag Archives: Main Range National Park

High summer in the Goomburra rainforest

December 2013 had some of the hottest days on record for this part of the world. Not an ideal time to visit a rainforest, but I head south anyway, driving through sun-blasted, open farmlands until I meet the western foothills of the Great Dividing Range.

Sunlit Tree Ferns (Cyathea sp.) reflected in a quiet pool on Dalrymple Creek. All photos Robert Ashdown.

Sunlit Tree Ferns (Cyathea australis) reflected in a quiet pool on Dalrymple Creek. All photos by Robert Ashdown, taken on an Olympus OM-D EM-5.

Goomburra, within Main Range National Park, is my destination.

The circuit track along Dalrymple Creek heads through wet sclerophyll forest, where giant eucalypts tower above rainforest scrub. At times, the scream of cicadas, known appropriately as Razor Grinders, is almost unbearable — a frenzy of tree-top insect metalworkers. Some recent rain and the hot weather has brought thousands of their nymphs up from their long, dark underground life. Their cast-off ‘skins’ are plastered over tree trunks, while the adult insects are high up in the glorious summer light, males calling females in a non-stop, deafening cacophony. What a dazzling stage of life it must be for an animal that has spent years underground in the cool, dark earth.

The smooth bark of the eucalypts bears evidence of other life, as skinks move across strange circular patterns — the feeding marks of Red Triangle Slugs. While scanning tree trunks I’m soon rewarded with a sighting of a Southern Angle-headed Dragon, clinging to a tree and furiously pretending to be a branch.

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A bright, sunny day in rainforest is usually the worst time for a photographer to capture interesting images, as the contrast range between dark shadow and blazing patches of light is beyond the scope of camera sensors, and the resulting photographs never really look like what the eyes saw. However, I’m here to enjoy the walk and in that frame of mind I soon get consumed by the search for intriguing patterns and photographic subjects.

As the Cascades Track winds on and upward, there are window-like glimpses of rainforest slopes above and the multi-hued foliage of emergent trees striving to reach the light. At ground level the sunlit canopy is reflected in pools of water, where another elegant reptile — an Eastern Water Dragon — regards me warily as I traverse its own small patch of paradise. Christmas Orchids flower close to the track, blazes of white among the shadows.

The walk presents an endless kaleidoscope of colours and textures. What more could a photographer hope for?

No place is boring, if you’ve had a good night’s sleep and have a pocket full of unexposed film. — Robert Adams.

I stop at one pool for a break and in the quiet notice all sorts of life. The large tadpoles of Great Barred Frogs move endlessly in the water and a Marsh Snake hunts restlessly for a meal.

I end up spending over an hour stalking Whitewater Rockmasters, one of Queensland’s five species of huge damselflies in the family Diphlebidae. These dazzling insects patrol their small bits of territory, and rather than run all over the place chasing them I set up at one spot to which a large male keeps returning. I could sit and watch these characters all day. 

The Cascades Circuit leads up and out of the cool rainforest, taking me back to my vehicle via open, recently burnt, woodland. Grass Trees have seen it before, masters of surviving fire, and their green and brown skirts add colour to a blackened landscape.

All too soon I’m heading home, windows down and hot air whipping through the car. I’ve visited another world, a place of green shadows and complex life. I will return again, soon, I hope.

The road to Goomburra.

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence. — Ansel Adams.

Main Range National Park is located on the western part of the Scenic Rim — a spectacular arc of mountains stretching from Mt Mistake to Springbook in south-east Queensland.

Much of the rainforest areas within the park fall within a World Heritage area, known as the Gondwana Rainforest of Australia World Heritage Area. This area conserves more than 1700 species of flowering plants and 500 species of vertebrate animals.


Giant Spear Lilly

Tucked away in a corner of the Toowoomba Botanic Gardens is a fairly nondescript plant with a rosette of large sword-like fronds. Barely noticed for most of the time, it captures walkers’ attention once a year when it throws up a large spike of bright red flowers. It’s a Giant Spear Lilly (Doryanthes palmeri).

Giant Spear Lilly, Toowoomba Botanic Gardens

Native bee on giant spear lilly flower

Struggling for a foothold — a native bee inside a flower of the Giant Spear Lilly in the Toowoomba Botanic Gardens. The leaves of this native plant can reach up to 3 metres, while their flower stalks (known as scapes) extend even further — up to 5 metres. Photo R. Ashdown.

The flower spike of 2012 was fairly low to the ground, so I had the chance to peer inside the flowers, where native bees could be seen covered in pollen and struggling to escape.

Native bee in Giant Spear Lilly flower, Toowoomba.

Native bee in Giant Spear Lilly flower, Toowoomba Botanic  Gardens. Photo R. Ashdown.

Named after English botanist Edward Palmer (1833-?1899), the Giant Spear Lilly is found in south-eastern Queensland and far north-eastern New South Wales. It lives on exposed rocky outcrops on infertile soils, or on bare rock. In New South Wales it is listed as a ‘Vulnerable’ species, as it is threatened in the wild by weed invasion, frequent fires and illegal seed harvesting.

Giant Spear Lilly, Main Range

In their element. Giant Spear Lillies, Main Range. Photo courtesy Karen Smith, NPRSR.

A great place to see these plants in the wild is at Cunningham’s Gap, where the cliff face of Mount Cordeaux is covered in them. Mount Cordeaux (1135 m) is known to Aboriginal people as ‘Niamboyoo’. Part of Main Range National Park, a walking track here leads off  the rainforest circuit and zigzags through rainforest to the exposed upper slopes, ending at a lookout on the southern side (take great care if walking this track).

Giant Spear Lilly, Main Range

Giant Spear Lillies cling to the cliff face of Mount Cordeaux. Photo R. Ashdown.

Giant Spear Lilly, Main Range

They share their rocky habitat with Grass Trees. Photo R. Ashdown.

Giant Spear Lillies can grow to three metres tall and four metres wide. The leaves are ribbed to provide structural support. Giant Spear Lillies are known as xerophytes, meaning that they have adapted to dry conditions and do not require much water.

Each rosette of the Spear Lilly flowers once in its lifetime, but after flowering, the plant is able to produce more rosettes. Giant Spear Lillies flower in spring but can take over 13 years to flower. Flowering can be brought on by bushfires, which also promotes the sprouting of root bulbs.

Roasted Doryanthes flower spikes were used as a food source for Indigenous Australians and the roots were mashed into a pulp and made into cakes.

Giant Spear Lilly, Main Range

Giant Spear Lilly, Main Range. Looking  south-east from Mount Cordeaux toward Boonah. The flower spike of this species will droop due to the weight of the flowers. Photo R. Ashdown.

Giant Spear Lilly, Toowoomba Botanic Gardens

A new flower spike begins to grow. 

More information on Giant Spear Lillies:


Reflections, Goomburra

Rainforest reflections, Dalrymple Creek, Goomburra. Photo R. Ashdown.

Goomburra is a section of Main Range National Park, on the western part of the Scenic Rim—a spectacular arc of mountains stretching from Mount Mistake to Springbrook in south-eastern Queensland.

Once a cattle property, Goomburra has a long forestry history, with  red cedar, pine and beech logged from the valley, and milled at Allora, as far back as 1870.  By 1923, the upper reaches of the valley were proposed for State forest, and forestry planning occurred. Selective harvesting of hardwood and softwood species occurred and experimental plantations were established. By September 1985, forestry extraction from the valley, gorges and ridges had been reduced and in 2002 Goomburra was transferred to the  Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. The Goomburra section was incorporated into Main Range National Park in June 2006.

Goomburra Valley

Storms brew over the Goomburra Valley. Photo R. Ashdown.

Dalrymple Creek, Goomburra National Park

Dalrymple Creek runs through the Goomburra section of Main Range National Park.

Azure Kingfisher

Azure Kingfisher (Alcedo azurea). Photo Harry Ashdown.

Fleay's Barred Frog

Goomburra is home to Fleay's Barred Frog (Mixophyes fleayii), a frog whose numbers have declined dangerously - it is currently classified as endangered. Photo R. Ashdown.

Bracken, Goomburra

Bracken Fern frond. Photo R. Ashdown.

Eastern Yellow Robin

Eastern Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria australis). Photo R. Ashdown.

Southern Angle-headed Dragon

Southern Angle-headed Dragon (Hypsilurus spinipes), one of the park's many reptile species. Photo R. and H. Ashdown

White-browed Scrubwren

White-browed Scrubwren (Sericornis frontalis). Photo R. Ashdown.

Goomburra fungus

Goomburra fungi. Photo R. Ashdown.

Leaves, Dalrymple Creek, Goomburra NP

A raft of leaves and flowers, Dalrymple Creek. Photo R. Ashdown.

Red-necked Pademelon, Goomburra NP

Red-necked Pademelon (Thylogale thetis). Photo R. Ashdown.

Orange-streaked Ringlet, Goomburra NP

Orange-streaked Ringlet (Hypocista irius). Photo R. Ashdown.

Rufous Fantail, Goomburra NP

The rufous-coloured, fan-shaped tail of the Rufous Fantail (Rhipidura rufifrons). Photo Harry Ashdown.

Orchid, Goomburra NP

Russell's Greenhood (Diplodium russellii). Photo R. Ashdown.

Looking east over Mt Castle from the top of the Great Dividing Range, Goomburra National Park.

Looking east over Mt Castle from the top of the Great Dividing Range, Goomburra National Park. Photo R. Ashdown.

Part of a special rainforest reserve.

In December 1994, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee officially declared the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area over the Scenic Rim, including most of Main Range and Mount Barney national parks and nearly all of Lamington and Springbrook national parks, and the rainforests of northern and central New South Wales.

World Heritage status is a prestigious international recognition of the important conservation values of this area, especially its unique geology, subtropical and cool temperate rainforests and rare flora and fauna.

As part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, Main Range is an extremely important refuge for many animals. These include a species of land snail, the beautiful Richmond Birdwing Butterfly, endangered birds (e.g. the Eastern Bristlebird), amphibians such as the Fleay’s Barred Frog, and mammals such as the Spotted-tailed Quoll and the Hastings River Mouse. Main Range National Park plays a vital role in protecting this rich diversity of globally significant wildlife.