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Queensland umbrella trees and birds associated with them


The Queensland Umbrella Tree is native to Australia, but was introduced to North America at least by early in the 20th century. It quickly became popular as a landscape plant in Florida and other sub-tropical states and was also cultivated as a houseplant that became (and still is) popular in more northern areas. Unfortunately – as with many other exotics, it took decades for us to realize negative aspects of the plant on our environment.

Queensland Umbrella Trees have very shallow roots that can break up sidewalks, driveways, and building foundations.

The fruit of Queensland Umbrella trees is readily eaten and seeds dispersed by birds such as our Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Gray Catbird, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Pileated Woodpecker. But perhaps the most problematic of seed dispersers are European Starlings. They arrive in flocks at Queensland Umbrella Trees and, when satiated, move on to feed at Cabbage Palms that have fruit at the same time. As they feed on Cabbage Palm fruit, the seeds of Queensland Umbrella Trees pass through a bird’s digestive tract and – with a bit of fertilizer – fall into the crevices at the base of palm fronds. There they begin growing and their roots cling to the palm as the umbrella tree grows. They do not always kill the palm, but do help further spread the Queensland Umbrella Tree.