Rainforest walks are amongst some of the most popular things to do in Cairns, yet there are a handful of plants that can make your day of exploration a very painful one. One of note is the wait-a-while plant.
Picture yourself on a lovely relaxing walk through a rainforest track. Bird calls are echoing throughout the canopies, butterflies are flying in and out of view frolicking in the wind and you may even come across the sound of a distant waterfalls in the background. Pure serenity… lovely. Then… screaming! A wait-a-while vine finds yet another unwary victim.
Calamus muelleri (commonly known as lawyer vine and of course wait-a-while) is a climbing plant commonly found throughout subtropical and tropical regions of Australia. A vine-like palm, wait-a-while is a climbing plant that is covered with sharp hooks along its leaves and, most notably, along the vines of the plant itself. It’s these barbs/hooks that can make an experience with a wait-a-while a very painful one indeed.
Due to the height it grows, it’s not just unfortunate bush walkers that can be victims of the barbs tearing through clothes and skin. There are stories of people on horseback also taking snags, which can be exponentially more painful than just a quick snag when walking.
When the wait-a-while has a hold of you, most of the time you will be fortunate enough to only have it rip a hole in your clothes. Those less fortunate can sustain more damage than just a ruined shirt or pair of pants.
Due to the flexibility of the vine, the force of the pull back when the vine hits it maximum stretch can make a very nasty wound. We’ve even “personally” witnessed a wait-a-while piercing right through a persons ear, which kind of put a crimp on the rest of their rainforest walk for the day.
So when you’re on the track (and especially if you’re off one) in a rainforest, be mindful of any thin vines around you. Although most heavily used tracks seem to have them naturally “cleared” by previous explorers, it’s always a good idea to keep your eyes peeled.