In my February 21 post, I mentioned that a lot of the rocks and some of the trees in Tasmania are more reflective of the geology and flora of Antarctica than of mainland Australia. (Antarctica before it froze, that is—there is a substantial amount of frozen flora beneath the ice, all dating back to the time before that hunk of terrain drifted so far south.) Nowhere is this more true than in the island’s cool temperate rain forest. In fact, Tasmania’s rain forests are at least partially defined by the absence of the dominant trees of the mainland— eucalyptus.
These temperate rain forests have something of a parallel in the old-growth rain forests of America’s Pacific Northwest: ancient trees, lots of mosses and lichens, cathedral-like effect of soaring trees. I have enjoyed both locations, and while they are not identical, they have a similar feeling of antiquity and seclusion.
It was our last day in Tasmania, and we started the day in the cool, quiet, shadow-dappled splendor of one of these forests. We were surrounded by tall ferns and fragrant trees. The trees in Tasmania’s rain forest include Tasmanian myrtle, leatherwood (from the flowers of which one of Tasmania’s most splendid honeys is gathered), celery-top pine, sassafras, Huon pine, pencil pine, and deciduous beech. Most of these trees are incredibly slow growing, and areas that are burned are unlikely to recover in several human lifetimes.