Western Queensland Road Trip #3 Gubberamunda State Forest
The wide expanse of Grafton Terrace Road is deceptive. While the track’s surface looks firm enough, the red sandy soil can be slippery, at times grabbing the tyres of our car and forcing them in a new direction, as if they have a life of their own. Luckily we’re in no hurry, driving at a speed which still allows for control over the steering wheel.
We’re headed north east of Roma to Gubberamunda State Forest, looking for ballerinas in the bush.
For a long time we peer out of the car windows, seeing none and wondering if we’ve gone too far and missed them altogether. Then suddenly we come across not just one or two, but dozens on the side of the road.
Xanthorrhoea johnsonii, commonly known as Johnsons Grass Tree or Queensland Grass Tree, is native to Australia and grows all over western Queensland. In this part of the state forest a stand of grass trees numbering in the hundreds flourishes.
Growing up to 5 metres tall and living for as long as 600 years, grass trees are instantly recognisable by their rough trunks, often blackened by bushfires, and the tuft of long grass-like leaves springing from the top. Old dried foliage bends downwards creating a “skirt” around the trunk.
With a light breeze lifting the leaves, the trees seem like dancers ready to twirl and flick their ballet tutus.
The playful addition of sunglasses almost brings Cousin It to life.
Although the soil quality is poor and there’s been no rain for months, the bush is well and truly alive. Purple nightshade flowers stand out brightly against the red surrounds while circular ant hills are like tiny sculptures, each one precisely and perfectly constructed.
Our attention returns the grass trees for, although we’ve seen them elsewhere in Queensland, the sheer number here is spectacular. It’s as if a whole company of dancers is about to take to the stage.