The Planting Festival

The festival was held during the first week of May at Woodford, Queensland, the site of the famous folk festival. I have been an occasional visitor to the festival since it began in the 1980s, originally at nearby Maleny. The 500 acre site, once a dairy farm, is owned by the folk festival organization, and fans such as ourselves can become citizens of Woodfordia for a small fee. In addition, there is a planting program that has so far seen over 100,000 native trees in the ground, many of them now having attained a good size. Most were planted by the volunteer “Treehuggers”, who meet there each month.

Woodfordia comes with a philosophy which I quote

“live as if we will die tomorrow and plan as if we would live forever”.

For more information on Woodfordia and the festival check out the website:

After setting up camp alongside thousands of others, in fields well-shaded with tree specimens, we made our way up to the festival site in time to witness the festival opening, a fire ceremony featuring Aboriginal dancers – can you make them out?

The following day it was time to get active, and what better way than to plant trees. I found myself in a group led by botanist Robert Price, we were tasked to plant some rare and endangered rainforest species along a creek bed. Here is the first tree I planted at Woodford, a previously unknown species for me, listed as rare and vulnerable, it grows in a narrow belt between the Tweed Valley and SE Queensland.

Lepiderema pulchella (fine-leaf tuckeroo) – bottom centre

On another occasion I joined the Treehuggers, taking care of some trees from previous plantings, weeding and mulching them, and replacing any that were dead.

I’m taking the photo here. Most of the trees here were planted by the Treehuggers.

Some other trees of interest in the camping grounds come arboretum :

The candelnut tree below (Aleurites molucanna) is a striking tree that has medicinal properties, and the nuts are delicious but they must be cooked. It grows in many tropical countries, including India and Hawaii (ok, not a country). It is in the spurge (Euphorbiaceae) family. For more info: 

Aleurites molucanna

I don’t know if this one has any medicinal uses, but it has really spectacular flowers appearing in Autumn, when there is very little flowering in Queensland. It is Xanthostemon (meaning, appropriately, yellow stamens) chrysanthus, or yellow penda. This would be an outstanding specimen tree for sub-tropical gardens.

Xanthostemon chrysanthus

The festival isn’t all about trees, there are various other biological and non-biological activities to get involved in. The DiscoveryLab, open for the duration, is the home of numerous citizen science projects including fungi, mosses and lichens, spiders, butterflies and other insects. My favourite are the butterflies, there is a walk featuring trees that are host to different butterflies, enticing onlookers to plant these species for the sake of attracting butterflies. In the photo below, the tree is Alphitona excelsa, a significant tree with medicinal properties.

There is native orchid group and a cycad group, anyone can join in.

Fungi is of major interest, I’ll let the posters speak for themselves

As you see, this isn’t exactly an amateur group conducting these projects, leading scientists in each of the fields are involved, however as with the tree planting, all are welcome to contribute. For those who don’t know where to start, or have little experience in field biology, there is an app available called QuestaGame, once again it speaks for itself.

Herbies reading this might be wondering whether herbal medicine fits into the scene. It turns out the local herbalist Dominique Livkamal, a one-time student, hosts the Medicine Room herb dispensary and provides medicine-making classes during the festival.

Dom and Kat in the Medicine Room

The festival is also about fun, entertainment, excellent food and beverages and a happy, kid-friendly environment. A highlight for me was the rainbow that signaled the end of the rain we received on day one. The photo doesn’t capture the drama of it, but it helps to set the atmosphere, though unusually, there are not many people about.

Rainbow hidden behind tree