Cardwellia sublimis – Northern Silky Oak/Bull Oak

cardwellia-flowersCardwellia (card-WELL-ee-a) sublimis (sub-LIM-iss) F.Mueller 1865 (monotypic endemic species)

Common names: Northern Silky Oak / Bull Oak.

Derivation: Cardwellia after Edward Cardwell, Secretary for the Colonies (1813-86) sublimis = lofty; a reference to the tall stature of these rainforest trees.

This was a much sought after timber tree, hence the vernacular names referring to the “oak-like” quality of the wood.

While most Australians think of Banksias, Hakeas and Grevilleas when they imagine Proteaceae species, those of us blessed with living in coastal tropical North Queensland think of a host of much more primitive species. Plants that evolved before the break up of Gondwana that grew in the depths of moist forest. Cardwellia sublimis is a good example, growing as an emergent tree it regularly exceeds 35 meters with moderate buttresses.

cardwellia-leafLike many of its cousins the leaves are variable. They are compound, alternating, with opposite or alternating leaflets. There can be 6 – 20 leaflets, which often have a wavy, intire margin.

The inflorescences are a terminal raceme or panicle of large attractive cream or white flowers. The large follicles, to 150 mm, that form stand erect, often high above the leaves at the top of the canopy and contain up to 12 brown, winged seeds that disperse on the winds. These magestic trees are a delightful member of the plants that form the Daintree rainforests


Posted by Allen

This is the first posting in the category of Daintree Plants which Allen will write especially for plant lovers.

3 responses to “Cardwellia sublimis – Northern Silky Oak/Bull Oak

  1. A very interesting post, thanks. How far south would that tree be found? Also – you said how high the tree was and that the flowers are at the top – so how did you get that great photo of the flowers? A very tall ladder??

  2. Hi Mick, Cardwellia sublimis occurs to about Cardwell ironically enough. The flower photo was from a young tree planted along the Cape Tribulation road some 15 years ago as part of restoration work. However we do have a “very tall ladder” near by called the Discovery Centre canopy tower from which you can see a Cardwellia. Cheers Allen

  3. Old plant man here looking forward to more!

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