The Ancient Forests of Satinay and Brush Box Trees on Fraser Island

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 10/04/2017

Reading time: 3 mins

Discover a completely unique landscape of a complete forest land growing straight from the sand!

Satinay Tree

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world, sprawling out for 120 kilometres. The scenery is diverse, boasting centuries-old sand dunes that have been carved by the elements and lush rainforests that date back thousands of years. There are plenty of things to see and do on the island, including panoramic views from the impressive Indian Head to the east of the island, and the Cathedrals, a cliff which is well-known for its vibrant streaks of coloured sand. Fraser Island is predominantly an ecotourism destination, with a whole host of incredible natural wonders to feast your eyes on, whether it’s the pristine beaches of Lake McKenzie, Lake Wabby, or other freshwater pools perfect for a cooling dip.

The rainforests of Fraser Island are one of the biggest draws for visitors. Many of these mesmerising natural hotspots can be found nestled in the gullies of high dunes, where they are protected from fierce winds and have a rich supply of water from the surrounding lakes. These ancient forests are home to an incredible array of plant life, most of which has been growing in the area for thousands of years.

How the Rainforest Grows

One of the main reasons for this rainforest’s importance is not just its age, but its actual development, with the island, completely made out of sand! Plants growing in sand is typically impossible,  and Fraser Island is the only known sand island that is home to a large rainforest system. What makes plant production in the sand so rare is due to sand being notoriously low on nutrients, which is required for plant life. However, Fraser Island’s however, the sand has a mycorrhizal fungus present, which aids in helping nutrients survive in the sand, making it the supreme plant growing environment.

About the Ancient Satinay and Brush Box Forests

Competition for light is intense in these parts, as the thick canopies have spent many hundreds of years forming and solidifying. This means that the main focus of the forests are soaring trees, with very little under-canopy growth that is evident in many of the other rainforests around Australia.

The most prominent trees in the rainforests of Fraser Island are the satinay (Syncarpia hilii) and brush box (Lephostemon confertus). These ancient trees form most of the high canopies, but you’ll also be able to spot hoop pines, kauri pines, creepers, and, occasionally, native orchids.

Where to See Ancient Satinay and Brush Box Forests

At Pine Valley, you can see some of the most impressive and accessible satinay and brush box trees. Though they are the most dominant species in this area, they also grow alongside palms, cherry satinash, and blush satinash.

  • Basin Lake

    This forest is home to a large turtle population, which have found shelter underneath the open forest of satinay trees and scribbly gums.

  • Valley of the Giants

    Though this part of the island is incredibly secluded, it is also home to some of the oldest trees on Fraser Island. The satinay and brush box trees that soar skywards here are more than 1200 years old, and have grown to measure more than four metres across the trunk. Perhaps the most impressive part, though, is that the trees are all growing in sand.

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.

Previous article: