Ficus columnaris Association.
Transit Hill—On Transit Hill the forest, owing to its proximity to the settlement, is not overrun with goats or pigs. It has scarcely been touched by the inhabitants, and is therefore for the most part in its original state. Forest-trees of the upper tier, 20 m. tall, are so far apart that usually their heads do not meet. Ficus columnaris is abundant, especially on the lower levels. Higher up Acicalyptus Fullagari occurs as the dominant tree.
Ficus forest viewed from above presents rather a striking appearance. Above the level of the mixed green foliage of the palms and trees the large rounded brown heads of the Ficus project. The brown colour is caused by the wind turning and exposing the underside of the leaves. In many places the forest appears to be composed solely of palms and Ficus trees.
What may be called the main forest tier is composed of palms, pandani, and trees about 15 m. tall. The plants are 2 m. to 3 m. apart, so that progress through the forest is easy except where the undergrowth or lianes are thick. On the lower levels, especially among the Ficus, the palm Howea Forsteriana is the dominant plant. Higher up it gives way to trees mixed with Howea Belmoreana. Pandanus Forsteri is frequent in the gullies. The forest comprises a good mixture of species of trees. Hemicyclia australasica and Acronychia Baueri are both common, and, though not the dimensions of Ficus or Acicalyptus, are fairly tall trees. Other large trees commonly found in this association are Olea paniculata, Cryptocarya triplinervis, Guioa coriacea, and Lagunaria Patersoni. The smaller trees are of slender habit, but contribute largely to the forest foliage. Those of frequent occurrence include Drimys howeana, Randia stipulosa, Coprosma putida, Psychotria Carronis, Geniostoma petiolosum, Sophora tetraptera howinsula, Rapanea platystigma, Myoporum insulare, Dysoxylum pachyphyllum, Homo lanthus populifolius, Elaeodendron curtipendulum, and others.
Lianes are especially abundant in the forest, climbing to the tops of the highest trees, and their rope-like stems form a characteristic feature of the forest-interior. The largest of these remarkable plants are Marsdenia rostrata, Flagellaria indica, Malaisa scandens, and Lyonsia reticulata. Other common species are Smilax australis, Jasminum simplicifolium, Clematis glycinoides, and Geitonoplesium cymosum. Arthropteris tenella climbs up the bases of the trees.
There is an undergrowth of young palms and trees, and of the shrubs Senecio insularis, Exocarpus homaloclada, Macropiper excelsum psittacorum, Baloghia lucida, and Alyxia ruscifolia.
The ground is not thickly covered with vegetation, large spaces being bare except for dead leaves and sticks. There are low ferns, sedges, grasses, trailing herbs, and seedling trees. Of ferns, Asplenium Milnei, Pteris comans, and Hypolepis tenuifolia are the most frequent. Carex gracilis is abundant; while the grasses Poa caespitosa and Oplismenus aemulus are common. Trailing plants are Commelyna cyanea, Polypodium diversifolium, Geitonoplesium cymosum, and Tylophora biglandulosa.
Epiphytes are scarce, only the orchid Dendrobium Moorei being noted. The parasite Korthalsella articulatum occurs fairly frequently on Cryptocarya triplinervis and other trees.