What is the Idiot Fruit?

What is the Idiot Fruit?

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 05/07/2020

Reading time: 4 mins

The Idiot Fruit is only found in a very small part of Queensland’s tropical rainforests.

Idiospermum australiense, or the Idiot Fruit, is a species endemic to the top of Australia. Found only in the Daintree Rainforest it is believed by many to be the eldest living flowering tree.

Daintree Rainforest

What makes the Idiot Fruit unique?

Idiot fruits have genealogical characteristics that match fossils from over 88 million years ago. How cool is that?

One of the most peculiar characteristics of the Idiot Fruit is its seed leaves. All modern flowering trees have one or two seed leaves. These seeds are generally able to produce a single sprout. However, the Idiot Fruit is different from other flowering trees. It doesn’t follow the modern rules of botany – it appears to make up its own!

Idiot Fruit seeds are abnormally large, measuring approximately the size of an adult’s fist. This fruit also has up to eight seed leaves rather than just one or two. Once buried, the seed splits into four parts and is able to produce multiple shoots.

Discovery of the Idiot Fruit

The bizarre plant was first discovered in the late 1800s by timber cutters. They found this plant while working and alerted their finding to a German botanist. However, by the time the botanist arrived, the specimen had been destroyed in a land clearing. After this, it was thought the species was lost forever until it was rediscovered almost 100 years later in 1971.

When the Idiot Fruit was found again in the 1970s, it emerged under mysterious circumstances. A grazier living near the Daintree Rainforest had woken up one morning to find that several of his cows had mysteriously died.

Thinking the cows had been poisoned, he called the police. Once the police arrived, they were perplexed by the si  tuation so they called a vet. The vet completed an autopsy and found whole Idiot Fruit seeds inside the cows’ stomachs.

The examination of the seeds ended up leading to the botanical discovery of the century. The Idiot Fruit was once again discovered in the Daintree Rainforest after it was thought to have disappeared forever.

Finding the Idiot Fruit in the Daintree

If you’re trying to spot the Idiot Fruit tree in the Daintree, you might have a pretty difficult time. Part of the reason this tree went undiscovered for so long is that it is incredibly generic-looking.
The Idiot Fruit tree looks like an evergreen with small white flowers. This makes it remarkably indistinct from many other species in the surrounding area.

Additionally, they are only found in a very small section of the Daintree highlands. Never be afraid to ask a local or guide if they are aware of where some are. You never know what they might say, but chances are they haven’t spotted any.

The Idiot Fruit is quite a fascinating and unusual plant! We wouldn’t expect anything less from the stunning Daintree.

Daintree Rainforest

Explore the Daintree Rainforest on a tour

You can explore the many unique species of the Daintree with our Daintree Rainforest tours! Our guides will teach you all about this magical part of Australia and you might even spot a wild animal or two.

Join a day tour of the Daintree Rainforest and see Cape Tribulation and Mossman Gorge as well. The day tour will begin with a river cruise in the Daintree Rainforest to spot some crocodiles. Then, you will embark on a 1-hour guided rainforest walk. This is a great chance to keep an eye out for the unique wildlife and try to spot an Idiot Fruit.

The afternoon will include a picnic lunch at Cape Tribulation. You will be able to stroll the gorgeous beaches before heading back into the rainforest for some swimming. Enjoy swimming in one of the best swimming holes called Mossman Gorge.

Cape Tribulation from above

If you have more than one day available, join our 2-day Cape Tribulation and Daintree Rainforest tour. The first day begins with a departure from Port Douglas and a swim. Then we will head into the Daintree Rainforest for a crocodile cruise. In the afternoon, we’ll explore the wildlife of the rainforest on a scenic hike.

Day two of the tour begins with some free time before making our way to Mossman Gorge. This is a perfect place to cool off and immerse yourself in nature before heading back to the hustle and bustle of Cairns.

Related article: Rare and Ancient Plants of the Daintree Rainforest

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.