Visiting the Botanical Ark – Mossman Qld

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I recently had the pleasure of spending six days at Alan and Susan Carle’s Botanical Ark in Mossman which is about 70km north of Cairns. A lot of us know of this amazing garden and what a wonderful attitude the Carle’s have to preserving the fruits and plants of the tropical rainforests. I didn’t go there to enjoy the view; I went there to get my hands dirty!

Michael Fabian ex Limberlost Nursery in Cairns is a man with the most amazing knowledge of grafting, marcotting and seeds I have met and is helping Alan marcott many of the rare trees that have never had that process applied to them before including Garcinia varieties, Durians, Nephelium (Rambutan, Pulasans) and Baccaurea. After Mike had cut off the marcott from the parent plant, my job was to pot them up and put them in the mist house. Over 2 days, we did 500 plants. The idea is to sell them through the local market and nurseries so keep your eyes and ears open for further news and you may be able to add to your collection of tropical plants.

Marcotting is one of the easiest ways of getting new plants that I have seen. Now I know a lot of you know what marcotting involves however Mike said the real trick is aftercare. For the first six weeks, the marcott has to be in high humidity constantly. Don’t apply fertiliser because the developing roots cannot take up nutrients and may burn. Once the roots are strong enough, the plant must now be placed in a shaded area for a further six weeks (these are estimated times for our sub-tropical climate) before being planted out. If you do marcott, the potting mixture should be coarse sand with some perlite in it.

The rest of my stay involved helping Susan with some catering for various groups from all over Australia. After picking the last Mangosteens for the season, Durians and the South American Sapote Quararibea Cordata, most nights were spent eating these fruit and although I have previously mentioned how to pick a good Mangosteen, here it is again. Hold the fruit in your hand, press your thumb on the skin and if the skin gives, then the fruit is OK. Sometimes you may see a bright yellow sap coming out of the skin – do not buy this fruit as it’s no good. When the fruit is as hard as cannon balls and you have managed to saw through it, the flesh is often rotten.

 I have volunteered my services for another week next year so I will let you know how I go.