The Curious Case of the Curtain Fig Tree

If you’re looking to explore some of Australia’s oldest natural history in Cairns and its surrounding regions, head straight to Yungaburra, where there is a pocket of remnant forest home to an incredible feat of nature.

Here, you’ll be able to see the famous Curtain Fig Tree. Though its name might not give it away as glamorous, this is definitely one of the most impressive trees in the world. Its curtain effect gives it a magical, ancient feel, while the surrounding boardwalk and scenic views provide a serene place to take it all in. The Curtain Fig Tree epitomises the power and unpredictability of nature, spanning back almost 500 years.

Curtain Fig Tree

How the Curtain Fig Tree Came to Be

About 500 years ago, a bird or small mammal dropped a tiny fig seed into the crown of a tree in the depths of a rainforest in Yungaburra. The host tree soared 20m skyward – essentially miles away from the ground where the seed could take root and grow.

But the seed managed to germinate anyway, and it sent a root to the ground down the length of the host tree. Soon, the fig began to grow, curling around its host tree and starting to form a choke hold on it.

Over time, its roots grew thicker and thicker until it was considered a tree in its own right. This, at the time, was the normal process of a fig tree, but what happened next is what makes this particular tree so special.

Under its strangling embrace, the host tree died and toppled sideways, crushing into the crown of another tree. It rested there at a 45-degree angle. The two trees remained like this for centuries, during which time the little fig tree began to flourish.

It sent more roots down to the ground along the length of the original host tree that had fallen, causing a 15-metre-high curtain-like effect to appear. After a while, the host tree rotted and fell away, leaving just the thick aerial root of the fig tree and its cascading array of smaller roots that fall elegantly to the ground.

Practical Information

You can find the Curtain Fig Tree just outside the small town of Yungaburra in the picturesque surroundings of the Atherton Tablelands. From Yungaburra, you simply need to head towards Atherton for about 1km before signs start appearing for the tree. There’s a nearby car park and a 50m boardwalk that takes you right up to the tree.

Explore the Atherton Tablelands Tour.

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