Forest Secrets

Now Showing

Fern in Forest Gallery
Step into the Forest Gallery
Source: Museum Victoria

Discover the hidden stories of Victoria's mountain forests.

Step through the glass doors into a living verdant fern gully complete with waterfall and cool temperate rainforest plants.

Follow the pathway that leads under the creek and discover how water shapes the landscape and creates the conditions for forest life - take a close up view of small fish, frogs and skinks.

Emerge from the dark rainforest into the sunlight and smell the eucalypt trees while learning how plant species have evolved. In the creek you may see native fish and spiny crayfish that inhabit the water, and the elusive water dragon may be basking nearby.

Forest Secrets is alive with seasonal change - birds nest, flowers bloom and berries ripen. The local Kulin Aboriginal people have seven seasons marked by the life cycles of plants and animals. Have a privileged view of some forest animals inside a log, in the foliage or basking on the ground. Somewhere up in the trees is the Tawny Frogmouth, while tiny wrens and finches flit across the path and among the bushes. Listen carefully for the call of the male Satin Bowerbird trying to tempt the female into his blue decorated bower.

In a clearing huge timber poles come into view representing the impact of fire. Fire is a destructive force yet it is essential to regenerate the forest. A lone chimney reconstructed here following Black Saturday stands as a symbol of the devastation bushfire can cause, and a video display set within one of the blackened poles illustrates  both the destructive and regenerative effects of bushfire. Seating platforms double as displays exploring human attitudes and impacts on the forest. Understanding how people think of and use the bush is central to managing it wisely.

Enjoy this refreshingly different exhibition and gain a new appreciation of our mountain forests.


Event Type: Permanent Exhibition

Daily, Now Showing
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Forest Gallery

Included with museum entry.
Museum Members receive FREE museum entry.

Comments (28)

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yehudis tsap 28 September, 2010 11:09
That forest does sound great and iteresting.
Kate 31 December, 2010 13:43
Hi, how do I preserve plants and bugs in a book or on a board, as I would like to make a field guide of surrounding plants?
Discovery Centre 5 February, 2011 13:12
Hi Kate - It is difficult to cover all options available given what you would like to do. The simplest methods for plants is pressing in between sheets of paper like herbarium specimens until they are dry; and for the bugs pinning and air drying is simplest option for most of them. You might be better served by doing a web search for more detailed advice on both of these.
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Debbie Lustig 5 September, 2011 19:51
Could you tell me how many species of birds there are in this exhibit? Your 'related resources' lists species found in real forests but not in your wonderful exhibit.
Discovery Centre 7 September, 2011 15:49

Hi Debbie,

There are four species of birds in the Forest Gallery: Tawny Frogmouths (Podargus strigoides), Blue Wrens (Malurus cyaneus), Satin Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus) and Red Browed Finches (Neochmia temporalis) - and thanks for appreciating the Forest Gallery and its inhabitants.

Nathan 22 November, 2011 21:34
hi i was at the exhibit with my class and i saw this black lizard with yellow spots. what type of lizard is that?
Discovery Centre 29 January, 2012 16:56

Hi Nathan, the lizard you saw is probably a Cunninghams Skink (Egernia cunninghami). These skinks live free range in the Forest Gallery at Melbourne Museum and are often seen sunning themselves during the warmer months of the year.

Lina 9 April, 2012 20:41
The birds that live in the Forest Gallery, are they free to fly away and return, or is there a net which encloses them?
Discovery Centre 10 April, 2012 10:51

Hi Lina,
Thanks for your question. The entire Forest Gallery is housed in an open-air, mesh-enclosed area. We also have Customer Service Officers who regularly monitor the space, and a Live Exhibits team who ensure that optimum living conditions are maintained for the animals living in the display area.

Ava 16 May, 2012 18:03
My name is Ava i am 7.i enjoyed your museum.
Yousif 14 September, 2012 10:44
Can you please tell me hat colour are adult female bowerbirds?
Discovery Centre 14 September, 2012 14:41
Hi Yousif, the bowerbirds in the Forest Gallery are Satin Bowerbirds. The female has a green/brown upper body, lighter under body with a distinct scalloped pattern, brown wings and tail, and very striking lilac eyes. A real beauty!
Mathew L. 14 October, 2012 19:37
May I know how big the forest is? And are all the animals inside from Victoria? If not, are they from all over the world?
Discovery Centre 10 December, 2012 14:40

Hello Matthew, we forwarded this to the Live Exhibits team here at the Museum, and thay have prepared the following response to your query:

The Forest Gallery covers 1,485 square metres and is 27m wide and 55m long. The roof is 15m high at the lowest point and 35m high at the highest.

The plants and animals are all Victorian and are from a reference area around Toolangi north of Melbourne. Both the plants and animals replicate very accurately the habitat and ecology from that region.

Bob 8 June, 2013 17:45
It was SOOO amazing when I walked in. All I could see was tall green trees but I think I missed something in the picture there was a bird that had red on its eyes and tail I do wonder what kind of bird was that? Because I only saw two types of birds the male and female bowerbird.
Discovery Centre 14 June, 2013 16:55
Hi Bob! I imagine it was the Red-Browed Finch you saw on the sign. Glad you enjoyed your visit!
Bob 29 December, 2013 16:40
Hi guys... On your Bowerbird Cam, I've seen grey quail-like bird a couple of times... what is it?
Bob F. 30 December, 2013 15:39
Hi guys - Exciting to birdwatch on the other side of the globe from my desk... I just saw an Eastern Whipbird go by on the Bowerbird Cam. How many kinds do you have in there now?
Discovery Centre 3 January, 2014 16:13
Hi Bob, thanks for your interest in our webcam. Unfortunately, the Satin Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus) don't always cooperate with their bower placement, but we continue to encourage them to build in front of the camera.

The other bird species in the Forest Gallery are Eastern Whipbirds (Psophodes olivaceus), Brown Quail (Coturnix ypsilophora), Blue Wrens (Malurus cyaneus), Red-browed Finches (Neochmia temporalis) and Tawny Frogmouths (Podargus strigoides).

Kate V 20 January, 2014 17:31
Which species of native fish are displayed in the Forest Gallery?
Discovery Centre 23 January, 2014 14:45
Hi Kate, in the upper parts of the Forest Gallery we have a number of smaller species, including River Blackfish (Gadopsis marmoratus), Common Jollytails (Galaxias maculatus), Spotted Galaxias (Galaxias truttaceus) and Pygmy Perch (Nannoperca vittata). The big fish in the pond at the front of the Forest Gallery are Freshwater Eels (Anguilla australis) and Silver Perch (Bidyanus bidyanus).


ROGER 29 March, 2014 14:34
how much would it cost to build something like this gallery and how much would it cost for its upkeep?
Discovery Centre 1 April, 2014 13:59

Hi Roger,

The Forest Gallery is deceptively natural-looking but is probably the most intensively-managed piece of landscape in Victoria. It requires a full-time Horticulturalist to manage and maintain the plants, and the work of several animal keepers to look after the animals - all working hard to give the appearance that no work goes on in there at all.

The plant species are carefully selected for their relevance and durability, and many of the smaller species are regularly rotated. There are a number of devastating insect pests and soil pathogens that require monitoring and control. The trees are physically measured four times a year, foliage samples are analysed for nutrients, and the soil is tested for moisture and pathogens. Large scale pruning occurs once a year, as well as other forms of pruning, testing and monitoring intermittently.

To set up a similar exhibition of a similar size today would require at least a million dollars, and the cost of upkeep is several tens of thousands of dollars per year. It could be done on a smaller scale at smaller cost, but there is always the threat of a pest or disease that could wipe out the entire exhibition with little warning.

Rebecca 7 July, 2014 21:21
We visited your forest exhibit today and as a family we were all absolutely enthralled. Curious as to how old this forest exhibit is? Thank you.
Discovery Centre 9 July, 2014 11:09
Hi Rebecca, thanks for your comments about the Forest Gallery. It opened to the public in late 2000 but required a couple of years of building prior to that and several more to plan. Fourteen years later, it’s beginning to mature into a genuine ecosystem, with many different species of fungi appearing as part of the natural recycling system.
Melissa Johnson 1 September, 2014 23:03
Your exhibit is one of my favourite places in Melbourne. While sitting in the sun looking back into the exhibit from the black Saturday section, there are a number of she oaks next to the concrete benches. I was wondering what type of sheoaks they are and where they are native to?
Discovery Centre 4 September, 2014 11:29
Hi Melissa - thanks for the feedback, yes it is a lovely place to pause and reflect. In answer to your question, we checked with the Live Exhibits team and they've said that the Sheoaks are called Black or River Sheoaks Allocasuarina littoralis. They are native to the Melbourne region and they've been placed in this part of the Forest Gallery for the beautiful sound that mature trees make when the wind rises.
roger toltelis 13 August, 2015 02:24
Forest Secrets is alive with seasonal change - birds nest, flowers bloom and berries ripen. The local Kulin Aboriginal people have seven seasons marked by the life cycles of plants and animals. Have a privileged view of some forest animals inside a log, in the foliage or basking on the ground.