Been visiting South Bank as long as you can remember? The Parklands are just spring chickens compared to some of the ancient species of plants and animals that now call South Bank home.
Herbivores from as far back as the cretaceous period were munching on plants you can still find today at South Bank. Read on to find out where you can do your own dino-food trail!
The best place to start your adventure is at Rainforest Green, home to many prehistoric plants including the Encepharlartos ferox, a rare type of cycad that has a beautiful orange female cone. Cycads were the stable diet of dinosaurs and one of the earliest known flowering plants. Watch out for their spiky leaves – they bite!
Surrounding the cycads are towering pine trees – hoops and bunyas with their trademark "Christmas Tree" shape and branches and acorn-like nuts. Pine trees are some of the oldest species on Earth.
Bunya cone, a Cretaceous fossil from the Winton Area - image courtesy of Queensland Museum
Araucaria (pine) trees are some of the oldest on Earth – including the very rare Wollemi Pine which has been found in fossils dated at more than 70 million years old. Until recently, this type of tree was thought to be extinct, so South Bank is very lucky to have one taking pride of place at the top of Rainforest Green near the Arbour. Weird fact about Wollemi Pines: all trees are genetically identical, which means the tree at South Bank has identical twin, triplet, octuplet and more, siblings dotted throughout the East Coast of Australia. Talk about a weird family tree!
Wollemi Pine (centre of photo)
At the opposite end of the park, in the waterways around Picnic Island, there are some beautiful lotus lilies. These lilies – Nymphaea lotus – are close cousin descendants of one of the earliest flowering plants from the Triassic period. There are even fossils depicting lotus leaves dating back as far as the cretaceous period.
If pine trees and lily pads are too serene for you and your dino-mad children, watch out for the pterodactyl of the plant world, the Bird of Paradise flower. Growing throughout the park, these striking plants can make you do a double take when you see their angular "faces" peeking out of a garden bed.
Bird of Paradise
And who can pass up a chance to sit quietly and marvel at our very own species of dragon – the Eastern Water Dragons found around many of the natural waterways in the park. These dragons are also territorial, so quiet, David Attenborough-style observation is recommended! Keep your eyes peeled for the eel-tailed catfish who also live in the waters of Picnic Island – with their whiskers and slippery tails they are truly the sasquatch of South East Queensland.
Eastern Water Dragon