Saturday, 26 April 2014

Mist Forest

Mount Gower (on the right) is often kissed by cloud on even bright sunny days
On a recent trip to Lord Howe Island, I went up onto the summit plateau of Mount Gower to see the lush growth of plants there - mist forest plants, growing on a sub-tropical island far out in the ocean.

The cloud which gathers on the summits of Mounts Lidgbird and Gower
 adds height to the perspective when seen from the fields
The twin peaks of Mounts Lidgbird and Gower stand tall over the rest of Lord Howe Island and to me, with my sense of exploration, I just had to go up there, to Mt Gower, the higher of the two at 875m.

The mist brings water to what might otherwise be a very dry place
There is no easy way up there, as the rise is so steep and cliffs block most lines of approach.

The first part of the climb follows the path across this cliff at mid-height,
then around the corner and up a steep valley to the final tower
On the plateau, the vegetation is short, wind-clipped as on most mountains, but still several metres high. Although oceanic, it is so high that there is very little salt in the atmosphere. The whole gives the effect of a ground covering of ferns and shrubs, linked to a low canopy by a tangle of moss-draped branches.

The rich vegetation crowds over the faint path
Overall, the colour is green vivid, leafy green - with the calming effect of a studio green room. And it is dark under the lush spread of palm and fern fronds - difficult conditions for photography.

It is a true jungle up there
Showy plants like the orchids catch most people's attention, but once seen there are other botanical treasures.

Bush Orchid Dendrobium macropus howeanum

Little Mountain Palm Lepdorrhachis mooreana
one of several endemic species only found on the top of these island mountains.
It is the abundance of lush growth that is the overall impression, especially that of the mosses which swarm over branches, stumps and rocks. It is their presence that tells this is a true mist forest, for they could not live without the frequent covering of cloud on those ocean mountain tops. 

Moss in so many forms like this feathery species
A moss blanket spread over a boulder
And a meandering trail of moss climbing over all on its way

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