Much of the wetland on our site is dominated by a single species of tree, the Wyong paperbark (Melaleuca biconvexa). During years of higher-than-average rainfall this forest grows half-submerged, although it dried out during the drought of 2001 - 2008. On our site it seems to spread by suckering rather than by seed. There is even a chance that the whole forest is derived by suckering from a single individual.
Besides being tolerant of flooding, the paperbark forest will grow on less fertile soil than the rainforest. However, rainforest species, both trees and vines, do tend to invade the paperbark stands and, at least in some places, to overwhelm them.
In the past, farmers used to burn the native pastures of blady grass (Imperata cylindrica) to provide a fresh flush of growth for stock to eat. This is likely to have advantaged the paperbark forest over the rainforest, whose trees are more easily killed by fire.
Photo Barbara Smith
Looking up into the canopy formed by the paperbark Melaleuca biconvexa. Unlike the rainforest trees, this species is intolerant of shade. This could be the reason why there are no leafy branches below the canopy and why there is a pronounced gap between neighbouring canopies. Every year in late September, the whole paperbark forest flowers, making the trees look as if they have been dusted with snow.
And here is the same paperbark forest, this time with the gap between the neighbouring canopies seen from above. The distinctive canopies of pencil cedar, cabbage palm, privet and blue gum, as well as the paperbark, can be seen on Google Earth and Google Maps views.