• dry rainforest;
  • eucalypt savanna;
  • pattern analysis;
  • seed dispersal;
  • vine thicket

Abstract  The spatial pattern of dry rainforest and savanna tree species was analysed in a 1.56-ha plot within an unburnt eucalypt savanna woodland in north Queensland, Australia. Rainforest colonization constituted only 1.3% of the basal area and mostly consisted of individuals less than 3 m high. The distribution of rainforest trees was highly clumped around the large savanna eucalypt trees. Ecological mechanisms generating the clumped distribution are discussed in light of evidence from this study and the literature. Herbaceous biomass was not reduced under trees, suggesting that relief from grass competition has not favoured rainforest colonization under tree crowns. Edaphic facilitation through nutrient enrichment under savanna tree crowns appears to be only minor on the moderate fertility soils of the area. The highly clumped pattern of colonizing dry rainforest may be a consequence of seeds dropped from birds roosting in savanna trees.