After a few days in the city, I had the pleasure of heading into the nearby mountains—the Dandenongs. I was delighted to find myself surrounded by greenery. It is a lovely feature of Australia’s largest city’s that there are mountains and wilder, or at least more rural, areas quite close at hand, where one can escape to cool beauty.
The Dandenongs are home to the Australian mountain ash, an impressive eucalypt that can attain heights of 300 feet. Beneath the tall trees, the ground is blanketed in ferns—although I guess one can’t actually say the tree ferns were blanketing the ground. These odd, ancient ferns actually tower over those ferns that do stay at ground level.
If the tree fern below reminds you of pictures you’ve seen of the age of dinosaurs, there’s a good reason. The fossil record shows that the types of tree ferns found in Australia were quite common during the Jurassic Period—and earlier.
Of the three genera of tree ferns, one clings to the hot, humid forests that follow the equator, from Southeast Asia to Mexico. But the other two have a far wider range, with several species that are quite comfortable in cooler climates or in mature forests at higher altitudes. Here, amid the towering eucalypts, the tree ferns (which can get to an impressively tree-like height of 80 feet) tower above the shorter ferns, adding a middle level to the general greenery, making the forest seem even greener.