Saturday, 15 December 2007

barking ....

These are a few of the tree in Woodleigh Crescent, Vermont South, in Melbourne's eastern suburbs. The idea this is a Crescent and that it is in Vermont South not South Vermont (I live in Vermont and the street is south of here) are the result of the no knowledge, no sense and no imagination of developers and local governments. I hate the pretentions of both. However, someone had the good sense many years ago to plant some good trees here and these spotted gum (Corymbia maculata) have now grown to more than 20 metres. This time of the year is deciduous time, the trees are shedding bark everywhere, and I have seen a few branches lying around at the foot of trees too. The bark is interesting for its colour.
A bit of rain and the colour comes out. Mainly grey, orange and pink at the moment.
With some purply pink patches too. The tree below is particularly pink. This method of shedding is called decorticating.
The effect is noticeable from the road, which I why I took these pictures. I was driving up the street in the rain, and was so taken by the colour I stopped to take some of these pictures.

The tree below is pink and grey, and it is not wet, so the colour is very pale and less vivid.
Many people believe eucalypts are an evergreen non-deciduous tree. But they drop branches, leaves, and bark, and in large quantities. At least three people have been killed in recent months by falling branches (see earlier post). lemon scented gums (Corymbia citriodora), according to Seddon, withdraw nutrients from lower branches, which die and drop off, the scar being covered in cambium to close the hole.
Patches of bark detaching from the tree reveal all sorts of effects, including a pale green new bark.
More green. The new bark comes through green or cream. The result is a pile of rubbish around the stump, which, according to George Seddon, is a mulch that prevents competition growing at the foot of the tree, and the trees out-compete anything else in the forest. The rubbish also produces fire-prone ground cover. But here in the leafy suburbs of eastern Melbourne the only fire likely is that under a nice piece of juicy rump and some snags.

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roundabout 2 ...

The roundabout at Carlton (lat. -37 47.68 long. 144 57.78) mentioned in a very early post-18th January this year. These trees are almost a year older, had another year of very low rainfall. I was driving back from having coffee with my mate Dave in North Melbourne yesterday afternoon and got caught in the usual jam at late afternoon home time. The bark on the spotted gum has peeled off showing the yellow creamy colour of the new bark.

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Friday, 7 December 2007

12 days, or more...

This is in the interregnum between the two towers at 55 Collins Street in Melbourne. These trees have very rapid growth at this time of the year. Appearing fully formed and complete with a shiny inedible fruit and spangly lights. The appearance of one tree seems to prompt a plague, they appear everywhere, and cause some mysterious emulatory disease to take hold in the far corners of the world. I have a Swedish home model, an el cheapo from the COOP that fair country, complete with plastic fir that the dog doesn't like-a wonder, given he has destroyed 5 shoes and two couches this week.

Here is another genus of the same plague. This one is a completely transparent silver, and unlikely to require sunlight for photosynthesis. Used to complement the smaller, ungown versions of the first tree pictured.
A set up, perhaps the silvery trees radiate some chemistry that induces growth in the green trees, or perhaps the whole concept radiates some effusion that lightly touches my gag reflex.

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Monday, 3 December 2007

The blues, I got the blues...


This is a paddock is on the eastern side of the road between Burra and Robertstown. The purple flower is that bane of farmers in South Australia, Patterson’s Curse, or Salvation Jane. The beekeepers of the state have got law on their side when they ...anyway I have dealt with this elsewhere. This is a weed, a noxious weed that councils are not allowed to clear because beekeepers need the flowers for pollen. Forget about any environmental concerns, and this stuff is poisonous to the country and to some stock, the bees have it. The weed moves up the roadways, carried on vehicles, then inland to occupy large areas like this paddock.

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Rouseabout...

This is a view from half way up the side of Mt Rouse, just behind the little Western Districts town of Penshurst. Mt Rouse is an extinct volcano, and forms one of the many neat hills that dot this landscape. At the base of the mount is a quarry, at the top a telecoms repeater station. The house just visible among the trees is Kolor, built in 1868 for the squatter, John Twomey. Twomey occupied the area in the 1840s-1850s, the run was small by comparison with most runs in the District, about 9000 acres, but the soils are rich, and Twomey benefitted. Like most squatters who remained after the 1850s Land Acts, he freeholded, then built a suitable house. The house is on the register of the National Estate.


This photograph was taken from below the house to the right of the colour picture above. It is interesting in that the decoration in the middle ground is a an explicit demonstration of 19thC social relations. Aborigines form the lower group, in possum skin rugs, Mr Twomey is higher up, close to the house, with his horse. These are images from the Latrobe library collected during an excursion into the history of the area done as my MA 12 years ago.

The top photograph gives some idea of what the countryside looks like now. We are fortunate in having pictures of what it looked like more than a century ago, in the few years after the house was built. This is the most interesting photograph. It is taken from a similar position to the top photograph and shows the extensive vegetation on the plains. The trees on the plain are mainly E. camaldulensis, Red Gum, with some acacia, I think, on the slopes. The close planting around the house that now obscures the building has yet to be done. Looking over the plains now, it is obvious they have been cleared, although at the time of occupation they were often described as like a gentleman's park. The top photograph indicates some of what that park description entailed. very open woodland of the red gum has been preserved in parts, but faces the problem of little being done for regrowth as the old trees reach the ends of their lives. Stock keep the land cleared as effectively as the Aborigines firestick kept it open in the millenia before European occupation.

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Wednesday, 7 November 2007

While you are at it....

Try this site too, as much for its variety as for the tree. Go down the page to the right hand side, three pages on trees. Mark, great stuff!!

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Oft it happens on a stormy night...

Type your summary here?

This tragedy was repeated the other day, and seems to be an event almost as common in Australia as a crocodile attack or snake bite.

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An old farm boy's worst nightmare...

This article doesn't surprise me. In the 1870s many farmers claimed rain followed the plough and tried to grow wheat at Farina in South Australia, 1000km north of where it will grow, and where Goyder said it would. He marked a line on a map, the 10" rainfall isohyet, as the northern most limits of successful agriculture in South Australia. The 1870s were very wet, so cropping took place well north of this line, Farina was its most optimistic expression. Come the dry seasons in 1879-1880, it was a very rapid retreat staged by the farmers, to where Goyder had suggested. Really what this article is suggesting, is not that rain follows the plough but flees the axe. And the axe has been very busy in this country, and farmers are very protective of their right to use it. South Australia passed legislation many years ago protecting forest and woodland remnants-scrub-and the bulldozers were at wotk day and night in the weeks and months before the legislation became law. Now we have some science to show that right for what it is. Bob Hawke, as Prime Minister, wanted to plant a billion trees in the 1980s, 50 billion, perhaps 100 billion, should have been the aim. The photo shows Mount Misery on Yorke Peninsula, in the middle of a very large area sewn to barley. Once the whole area was scrub like that still on the mount. These very large cleared areas sewn to crops give many parts of South Australia a low, smooth, and rolling appearance, little interrupted by trees. It is aesthetic that is very particular to that place.

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Here, read this, it is important....

This article is in the latest ALR, sort of Times review of books for us down here. This is a good article on trees and blow-ins. I have a few more of these, so watch out.

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Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Mallee, again...

On my way back from Port Lincoln, you can do it either by driving 700km around the top of Spencer's Gulf -named by Matthew Flinders after an ancestor of Princess Di, the 2nd Lord Spencer, who was Lord of the Admiralty in 1801,-to Adelaide which is only 250km east, or by taking the car ferry at Cowell, and cutting off 4-5 hours driving at the cost of about AUD140, I stopped for a constitutional near a silo. This is cropping country, like Yorke Peninsula, but the crops are not as good this year as those on Yorke Peninsula. This is mallee country, like most of South Australia's good cropping country. When I say good, it is not the European or American sense of heavy yielding. Here good means 1-2 tonnes an acre. This is the mallee, a small one, that is common in these parts.

Young fruit, red twigs, very similar to E. calycogona, but I don't think this one is that species. These trees were not flowering.

Old fruit, dark twigs.
Another specimen.
This is the other side of the road. These silos are the only places along this road where mobile telephone reception is any good. They also provide landmarks of towns, in an othersie very flat landscape.

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Brachychiton 2...

This my aunt's front yard in Port Lincoln, on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula. The tall tree on the right is Brachychiton acerifolius, Illawarra Flame tree. Unfortunately it is not flaming at the moment, although it is almost the early summer of its purported flowering. This tree is a relative of B. populneus, mentioned in an earlier post. The flowers are particularly startling, bright red flowers on bare branches.

Leaves under shade are large, lobed palmately, bright green and very shady. On the sunny side, the leaves suffer some damage from dry winds and too much sun.
The trunk of this tree, showing the bark. These are good, solid trees, quite unsuitable for timber because the trunk begins branching low down.
Old fruit, very like B. populneus, is encased in a similar leathery capsule. The fruit appears to ripen once the capsule has hit the ground. The seeds are small-hlf a cm- and pea like. Didn't taste them. Not likely too, but other animals might be keener. They call this type of fruit drupes, for obvious reasons. My aunt is very fond of this tree, and says she can see it in her garden from many streets away when it is in flower.

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Brewer's ruins...

This is the house my forefathers built sometime before the first war. It was only lived in for 30 years, and was my father's childhood home, and has since become the ruin it is now. I am not sure who built the place, the land was taken up by my great grandmother in 1912, although the family had been in the district since the early 1880s when they moved from Melrose, and my great grandfather died in 1899. It may have been built by and my grandfather and my great uncle Ted, who lived in another, similar house, about 400m south with my great grandmother. The house was built of limestone gathered from the square mile the family bought as their farm. The stones are cemented together with a weak mix of cement, sand and earth, a sort of marl. The floors were marl about 3/4th inch thick on levelled earth, and the roof was galvanised iron on 3x4s, with no ceiling apparent although hessian bags were often used in these vernacular houses. The house consisted of a kitchen with iron stove, a sitting room with painted marl walls, two bedrooms, and a small addition, a parlor, or third bedroom, beside the hallway. Behind this house was a series of lean-to sheds that were used for horses, farm machinery, tractors, and cars. Water was gathered in an in-ground stone tank lined with cement. The tank is still there although the lining has deteriorated to the extent it will no longer hold water. A much larger tank, 4m deep, of the same construction is about 200m away, near the road. This tank held about 50000 litres, or 10000 gallons. This is by way of a back story.

This is an ancient almond tree standing in the middle of a paddock of two row barley. Behind the tree is the wreckage of an old pine on the left, and the ruins of the house, and a mulberry tree of the same vintage.
Some years ago this area was burnt in a fire. The pines died, the almond survives, just. This was the only fruit I could see, a single nut within an arm's reach.
The branches are covered in bright yellow lichen. New branches have come through the lichen, complicating the tree's structure to the point it would be almost impossible to prune except severely.
This is the other dead pine. These trees are all of approximately the same age, some 80-90 years. In the background are mature examples of E. calycogona, mentioned in a previous post about Brewer's corner.
Closer to home is the mulberry, a mature tree probably as old as the other trees mentioned above. This one appears quite fruitful, as it is in bountiful flower. Immediately behind the tree is the in-ground tank that serviced the house, holding about 5000 gallons of water. The back door of the house would have been just to the right of the tree, where the stonework ends. (I think it was the back door, as the view above suggests the front of the house, but it faces away from the road. There is evidence of a front porch of some kind near the door.) The room on the right was the parlor, or third bedroom. My father had 2 sisters and a brother, and they also had plenty of family visitors, so there was a need for bedrooms.
The base of the mulberry. These seem to be slow growing trees. The oldest exotic tree in South Australia is a mulberry planted on Kangaroo Island in 1835-6, which was still productive in the 1950s and 60s when I was a kid, because in mulberry season we kids would sometimes spend an afternoon pigging out on fruit while our parents were in town. The tree was probably three the size of this one.
Mulberry flowers. The tree was covered in flowers, which points to a good season. They will, of course, be wasted by everyone except the birds and bees.
The lichen on the trunk of the tree. This is a quite thick and well developed covering of the older braches of the tree. it has been quite dry in recent years but the occasional rains would be enough to ensure the plant lives on.
Behind the barley is this mountain, Mount Misery, a terrifyingly jagged peak of unclimbable heights. The Mount formed the shared inner corner of the farm. I suspect the name was given either in jest or as a warning. My family went bankrupt on this land during the Great Depression, and moved away. But the names of families, places, the times, still inhabit me from my childhood when my father used to talk about his childhood. He was about 24 when they left the district, some 6 years after the farm was sold from under them by the State Bank of SA, now known by its fatuously modern business name of BankSA. The barley, this is the great barley growing area of Australia, is the best in Australia. If you want good beer, here is where you get the barley for the malt. This crop will go into many appreciative stomachs over the next year or so. Skoll.

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Thursday, 18 October 2007

Brewer's corner...

At the corner of Gillis Road and the Petersville Road (-34 22 02 137 47 03E) is this sign. This is an intact stand of the original mallee tree - E. calycogona -which was common throughout the peninsula before European settlement in the 1870s. The corner is known as Brewer’s corner, and the reason I am here is that it is obviously part of my ancestor worship. My great grandfather on my father’s side settled here in the 1880s and my family remained until sometime in the early 1930s when the bank foreclosed and my family moved to Sherlock, on the mallee in the eastern part of South Australia. Quite a few acres of ground around here was cleared by my family, so the destruction of this tree’s habitat can be partly sheeted home to them. They continued on this destructive way at Sherlock, a railway hamlet built to maintain the train track to Melbourne, but the land is vegetated by mallee, remarkably similar to the mallee on Yorke Peninsula.

The flowers of E. calycogona seem to be attractive to the rather large ants that inhabit the region. These ants are at least 12mm long, and are found all over the blossoms on the tree. Without any references to guide me, I would say that this may be the reason the tree is protected now: ants instead of bees and birds are fertilizing the flowers.
The buds are quite distinctive, red and yellow in reddish stems. The new leaf seems to be red too, this may be a mallee characteristic. Ants also like buds, attacking them before the flower has opened.
Mature fruit seem to be covered with lerps. Ants must use these trees as fine dining, farms, and home away from home.
The base of the tree has a distinctive mallee formation, many branches close to the ground.
The trees are not that tall, only up to 3m, bushy, but very attractive on the roadside.
This ruin is my great grandfather and mother’s house. Built of the stone they picked from the paddock around them. Just up the road is the ruin of mr grandfather's house. They had a square mile of this country. The north west corner of which is a very low mountain, Mount Misery. Those who know me might find that amusing.

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World's end here...

The day I travelled here I went to World’s End, a gate on the way to a prosecution for trespass. I decided to go here, Point Inspiration, thinking the view from the top of the range would be worth it. However, when I arrived I found this. The tree that shelters this piece of hagiography is the ubiquitous E. Camaldulensis, red gum, but not the strong trunked river species but a pathetic, almost mallee, like version. What this is here for escapes immediate inspection. The plaster saints are behind a fence, in a plastic tank cut open so we can see them, but shelters the figures from the sun and rain.

The female is submissive:
The male is dominant. Maybe something to do with politics in the area.
The view from the point is sublime. Our plaster saints aren’t interested, they are concerned with their domesticity.

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