The Curious Case of the Curtain Fig Tree

The Curious Case of the Curtain Fig Tree

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 03/30/2016

Reading time: 3 mins

If you’re looking to explore some of Australia’s oldest natural history head straight to Yungaburra. Located just a short drive from Cairns, is a pocket of forest home to an incredible feat of nature.

Curtain Fig Tree

Here, you’ll be able to see the famous Curtain Fig Tree. Though its name leaves more to be desired, it is one of the most impressive trees in the world. It has a magical, ancient feel, while the surrounding boardwalk 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.

How the Curtain Fig Tree Came to Be

About 500 years ago, an animal dropped a tiny fig seed into the crown of a tree. Deep inside the rainforest this tree would become the host of something magical. The host tree soared 20m skyward –far away from the ground where the seed could take root and grow.

But the seed, 20m above the ground, managed to germinate anyway. As it grew, its roots began to descend the host, eventually reaching the ground below. With its roots growing longer and stronger they began to curl around the host. Eventually, this lone seed has a choke hold on the host tree.

Over time, its roots grew thicker and thicker until it was considered a tree in its own right. This is 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.

Today, with no host tree to support it, the fig tree is entirely self-supporting. It holds its own immense weight high above the ground. The fig tree is so large, that we actually do not know exactly how large it is. It is estimated it is approximately 50m tall and has a trunk circumference of 39m.

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.

Today, the tree holds Heritage listing in Queensland. It was granted its listing in 2009 due to its demonstration of flora evolution and its aesthetic significance. It is truly a magnificent display of the power of nature!

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.