Lawyer-vine (aka Wait-a while)

To: <>
Subject: Lawyer-vine (aka Wait-a while)
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Sat, 25 Feb 2006 17:44:15 +1000
May I add to the account of Calamus?

If birding in eastern Australian tropical or sub-tropical rainforests
lawyer-vines ("once they get their hooks into you they never let go") are
indeed a hazard to beware of.

We have but one species in south-east Queensland, Calamus muelleri, but it's
vicious.  As it grows, the cane is totally enclosed by leaf-sheaths densely
armed with needle-sharp prickles. And especially treacherous are its armed
tendrils, to which Laurie Knight referred.  Each tendril has rows of very
sharp recurved hooks.  They serve a very useful purpose for the plant, but
are decidedly inconvenient for any human intruder.

Laurie says, "the trick when walking through the forest is to recognise the
palms, so you lookout for the tendrils.  That way you can either go  round
them, or find a way to push them aside if you can't."

I strongly recommend going around.  Push or bump into a lawyer-vine and the
tendrils sway back and forth.  If one hits your clothing it hooks onto it.
And if it does, the worst thing you can do is to try to pull away from it.
That results in the other tendrils whipping around to grab you.  It almost
seems animal-like in its reaction.

The thing to do if hooked, is to stand perfectly still and very carefully
unhook the tendril, then back off.  A simpler technique is to carry a pair
of secateurs and simply snip off the tendril, but that is really only
legitimate if it's your own the rainforest.  It would be inappropriate (and
illegal) to do so on a national park or other conservation reserve.

It is by means of the tendrils that the vine is able to climb to the
tree-tops.  As with most plants, the growing tip grows upwards.  The stem
(cane) is stiff though not stiff enough to continue to grow upwards like a
tree.  But the tendrils wave in any breeze, and hook onto any other plants
that they touch.  Then the recurved hooks act like a ratchet.  As the plant
sways the tendril can move forward (= mostly upwards) but not backwards.
Thus it "pulls" itself upwards as it grows, ultimately reaching the canopy.

Nature is wonderful.

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