The plants and protected habitats of Huon Bush Retreats and Mt Misery Habitat Reserve
Major Habitat Communities
The three dominant forces in creating the micro-habitats at Huon Bush Retreats have been underlying rock types, fire and human intervention. In many areas of Tasmania, there is a close correlation between fire frequency and vegetation type. The longer an area is fire free, the closer it becomes to rainforest. The more frequent fire passes through, the closer it is to grassland. Enjoy our walking tracks as they pass through the following major vegetation types:
- Open fern and wattle groves
- Fire recovering dry eucalypt regrowth forest
- Wet gullies with dogwood over story and moss blanketed ground
- Old-growth eucalypt forest where 350 year old trees reach 60 meters tall
- Rainforest gully with majestic myrtle and sassafras trees, tree ferns and moss covered logs
- Sub alpine rocky eucalypt forests
- Sub alpine heathland community of grasses, shrubs and gnarled wind blown tree copses.
The Lookout track – A view field over a range of vegetation types
The wheelchair accessible lookout is an exceptional place to enjoy an overview of the wide range of habitats that are Huon Bush Retreats. Leaving the village loop road, you move from the open areas that are being recolonised after abandonment as occasional rough pasture some 20 years ago.
The acacia trees give way to young eucalypt obliqua trees with a bedfordia understory.
Arriving at the lookout, the rocky outcrop creates a natural clearing carpeted with native grasses, lichens and mosses. This provides a spectacular view to the rainforest opposite. Here, sassafras is the dominant tree with the occasional ancient myrtle tree. The understory is dense dogwood and hides a small waterfall.
East of the rainforest gully, your eye is caught by enormous eucalyptus globulous trees, 60 meters tall and 350 years old. This is the edge of the oldgrowth forest, which if kept fire free for another 150 – 250 years, will most likely progress to rainforest.
Fire Influenced Habitats along the Tall Trees Track
(about 30 – 45 minutes loop)
Walking the Tall Trees Track will give you a good idea of the effect that fire has in starting the progression through Tasmania’s forest types.
The village area was partially cleared for cattle grazing many years ago and fire was one of the tools used. Here the vegetation is dominated by grasses, bracken ferns and wattle trees, which are early colonisers as the forest takes the land back again. The soils are sandy and well drained, providing habitat for plants that can cope with periodic drought.
You might note that there are three distinct ages of trees. The trees which grew from the fire stimulated seeds 40 years are now about 300 – 400 mm diameter and about 20m tall.
In the early 1980s these trees began producing seed within a few years of each other and gave rise to a second age of tree which are now some 200mm diameter and 12m tall. Now these are producing seed too and the third generation saplings are beginning to fill in the gaps and will take another 80 – 100 years to produce a mixed aged forest progression from Eucalypt forest to Rainforest.
As the track follows the hill slope to the southerly slopes of Mt Misery, it reaches a gentle depression and becomes damper. This was where the 1967 fire stopped, probably by a combination of wind change, falling late day temperatures and the moister vegetation. Damp area plants such as dogwoods, tree ferns and pomaderous take over here. The slope now turns more southerly as it reaches the next stream and the soils become deeper and more peaty. This peat soil consists mainly of decaying vegetation and just a little mineral earth. It acts as a huge sponge that provides a constant water supply to the rainforest species and the huge eucalypts that live here. If the peat dries sufficiently to burn and a fire passes through, the sponge will be lost and the habitat will revert to dry eucalypt habitat.
The canopy here is closed, letting little light to the floor of the forest. This creates an open “calladendrous” forest where you can see 30 – 40 meters. Seeds that fall here generally do not grow, so it is only in areas where the canopy is broken by falling trees that new plants get a chance. The towering eucalypts here are about 350 years old and are nearing the end of their life. Each time one falls, the rush of light to the forest floor allows the Myrtle and Sassafras trees of the rainforest to grow to the canopy. Over the next 50 – 100 years, all these eucalypts will fall and the rainforest will take over.
These giant trees give just a few minutes warning before the base shatters and the entire tree comes to the ground. Listen for cracking noises inside the trunk. If you hear cracking, get at least 100m away as quickly as possible and warn other track users.
Rainforest relic community
This spur track at the western extremity of the Tall Trees Track takes you to an area that has escaped fire for many hundreds of years.
Here the deep peat stays moist year round and supports the rainforest community. It also feeds the stream and waterfall which only stops flowing occasionally. This area has probably escaped fire for the past 300 – 400 years. Once a community reaches this stage, it becomes fire resistant as few of the plants that live here will readily burn. However if a drought is long enough and a fire fierce enough, the peat will burn. This will lead to death of the rainforest trees and reversion back to dry, thin soiled eucalypt forest.
Mt Misery Track Escarpment Communities
(about 1 to 2 hours return)
Energetic people might like to follow the route from the rainforest, climbing higher onto the subalpine plateau.
Leaving the rainforest gully, the soil suddenly becomes thinner and dogwoods briefly take over the canopy. This rare habitat type contains very few different species, with most of the diversity occurring as small micro-organisms in the decaying logs and the soil.
Rising above 500 meters, the average temperatures fall and wind exposure increases. Eucalypts take over again, but now they are gnarled with an open canopy. The thin, rocky soils here cannot support much understory as most water is deep within the steep rocky ground and only plants able to push their roots deep can reach it.
Mt Misery Plateau Communities
(about 2-3 hours return)
Energetic people might like to follow the route across the plateau, climbing gently to Mt Misery summit.
At about 600 meters, we climb the sandstone escarpment and reach the sub alpine heathland plateau. The impervious underlying flat rock here creates a dam that holds the water in place. Soils here are waterlogged most of the year and winds tear the tops off any plants that grow more than a few meters tall. Grasses, bushes and sub surface plants such as orchids dominate this landscape. They are highly flammable, so when fires enter this area, they sweep through with great ferocity, often burning everything to the ground.
Occasionally on the plateau, there is a better drained area, where eucalypts again take over. The cold wind and frequent fires lead to slow growth and low productivity. Growth is slow, decay is slow and recovery from fire events is slow.
During early summer, wildflowers abound across the plateau heathlands.