Wednesday, 24 January 2007


Museum The other Sunday we went to the Melbourne museum which has a small area of forest in a conservatory. We have done this many times, however those visits were before I started this blog with David.

The most spectacular part of this forest is at the back of the conservatory, which contains a symbolic stand of E. regnans, Mountain Ash. Fire blackened poles 20m or so high have been taken from the forest in the high country after a fire had been through. At the base are small plots of young seedlings.

E. regnans is not a species which regenerates from the hulk of the old tree like so many Australian species do. Instead, the tree itself dies, and the seed pods burst open in the flames to shower the fertile forest floor with seeds.

Since their parents can't steal the light, they compete vigorously with each other, racing skywards in straight poles, as in the exhibit.

Without visiting the high country - a bit risky this summer of constant burning - it is possible for city-bound people to imagine how spectacular a E. regnans forest would be. We will show you in the winter, as we explore the high country of the Great Dividing Range.

Tasmanian Oak (Tassie oak) is one of the names given to this tree. I am using some at the moment - recycled floor boards - to build a work bench top:

For more on E. regnans, try here and here. (E. regnans hybridises easily, by the way, so it tends to be unstable as a species. The actual parentage of a given piece of Tassie oak can be a bit hard to pin down - David.)

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Four trees in front yard in Forest St., Blackburn, late on a rainy January afternoon. kb

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Friday, 19 January 2007

Carl von Linne 2

In Sweden summer gives way to winter, suddenly. It seems to take three weeks from the first leaf browning to the end of the Fall. We think it is an affectation to call autumn Fall, but in a world of deciduous trees, it is Fall: spectacular and complete, the removal of every leaf. Even the oaks give them up.

Here in Melbourne, autumn is something made up by the weather bureau, and only noticed because the exotics - trees of the north - are making the footpaths slippery. In the north when it snows, a southerner like me stands completely confounded, every sense overwhelmed, everything reduced to its form, like the air breathing. To open one's mouth in falling snow is to become breathless, the air is so caught up in the snowflakes it refuses one's lungs. Suddenly the sun breaks through...
This light, these forests are buried in our genes. When we who have come from the north - my ancestors have been in Australia since 1839 from Germany and England - live in them again. No matter that it is in a heated house in an outer suburb of Stockholm, a deep stirring occurs in every molecule of our being, as if bits of junk DNA, which contains these memories, jumps a few places. kb

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Carl von Linne

Walking through the Djurgården in Stockholm in the summer of 2004 I saw this woman examing flowers. Djurgården is a living museum very close to the heart of the city. It features a zoo, and a collection of all the main types of Swedish buildings from all over the country, mostly wood, mostly painted in the traditional colours-fulanråd being the most common. Swedish summers are not like Australian summers. The days are long, UV levels rarely get above 4, the temperature is rarely above 30C, the wind don't blow, but it does rain, and it rarely snows. Just behind the woman was a small conservatory:
It was set in a corner of the garden where it was possible to lie in the grass and chew the cud, look at a flower. There was Carl von Linne, carved from a fine piece of Swedish forest, perhaps looking at the ancestor of the plant the woman was interested in.
It makes sense in Sweden to carve your statues from the forests. 60% of the country is still forested, mostly with regenerated woods and forests, and the export of forest products pays a lot of the country's bills. Wood is one of the principal materials used in Swedish design; IKEA, among others, has promoted good design in wood since the 1930s.
In this post-colonial world, some are annoyed by the work of systematisers like Linne; imperialists, European appropriation are the sorts of words used. For more than a thousand years the Swedes have struggled with making sense of themselves. They are, like Australians, a small country on the edge of the known world, they have similar attitudes to their athletes, footballers, singers, but they don't sell themselves short. Swedish companies like IKEA, Saab, Volvo, Electrolux, Husquvarna, ABBA, Bofors, H&M, are all world brands, not one a beer, although some are now owned elsewhere.
These pictures are here because of his work, because he is wood. Because I saw him on a sunny afternoon amid the flowers. And he taught Solander, who sailed with Cook and Banks. Read more about him here: and here: kb

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Thursday, 18 January 2007


Like many people in Melbourne, I have driven around this roundabout at the intersection of Cemetary Road and College Crescent Carlton many times. When I arrived here in 1980 I was struck by the two small trees planted in the centre of the intersection (lat. -37 47.68 long. 144 57.78E. Over the years I have watched as they grew into the raffish individuals which contrast strongly with the neat exotics which populate the road verges around here.

This shot was taken while stationary at the lights on Cemetary Road. In all these years I haven't taken the trouble to identify them, an appalling lack on my part.

While driving past the University up Royal Parade I was struck by the sparseness of the leaves on the elm trees which line the roads. They have a skeletal look which seems to be symptomatic of the drought conditions. No water, no leaves. Melbourne has a vast number of elms, unaffected by dutch elm disease, such that one could say it is a refuge for the species. Unlike some in the Greens, who believe these trees should be allowed to die to be replaced with native species, I hope we will expend some of the public treasure in preserving them. kb

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Wednesday, 17 January 2007

heading south...

Down near one of the tees on the Morack Road golf course, South Vermont, (lat. -37 50.97 long. 145 12.27E), is a small park, well planted in hardy native such as oak, blackwood, etc., and this small tree which I think is eucalyptus newbeyi, Newbey's mallee, a native of the extreme south-west of Western Australia.
Further down the slope behind the sapling is a couple of very healthy and productive oaks. E.newbeyi has long, slender bud caps (operculata)...
producing large yellow flowers ...
George Seddon, in his book 'the Old Country: Australian Landscapes, Plants and People' suggests that the export of some of the flora of the south-west of Western Australia to the wetter areas of south-eastern Australia maybe the necessary means by which the species are preserved. he calls it the 'love 'em or lose 'em' argument. I am inclined to agree. I will come back to George on another occasion. kb

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Canterbury Park

Here is another oddly shaped tree, probably a spotted gum Corymbia maculata, this time in Canterbury Park, on the south side of StanleyTce., in Canterbury (lat. -37 49.54, long. 145 04.65 E). The park is accessible through a gate off Stanley Tce., just inside the gate is a large black plastic water tank, rather rudely shoved into a flower bed. The gully and the huge shady deciduous trees keeps the soil quite moist, so the grass is greener than in most parks this year.

These two palms form a gateway to the park just inside the Stanley Terrace entrance.
I think these are European weeping birch
Betulaceae Betula pendula. I noticed the two trees among the others, whilst driving past this park because their foliage is grey and airy, in contrast to the darker greener foliage of the other trees in the park.
Is this disease, or is it drought? There are a lot of trees, not only exotics, suffering a severe thirst this summer. I noticed today plane trees in some of the streets of Hawthorn are beginning to shed leaves. In mid-January this is very unusual.
Of course on a hot day day, an oak provides shade quite unlike a gum tree. Our early settlers
remembered this. They also realised Melbourne was wet enough, cool enough, and fertile enough to provide a good environment. kb

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Saturday, 13 January 2007

slim shady

This tree is at the corner of McLaurin Street and Murrumbeena Road, Carnegie - (lat. -37 53.72, long. 145 03.83E). The tree's deficiencies are obvious, although causes are unknown. There are many trees around Melbourne with a similar shape, which appears to derive from a constriction on the branches whilst growing, and like them, this tree has a very short trunk and long branches.
Closeup of the main trunk. The road verge is barely wider than the trunk, the footpath has been moved away from the trunk, yet the roots haven't lifted the path much. kb

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Wednesday, 10 January 2007

he was a tree man...

In March last year I was standing at the gate to Hans Heysen's house in Hahndorf, South Australia. My paternal grandfather had been a neighbour of the Heysens for many years, and as a girl my aunt had often been waiting to catch the school bus, and had watched the old man at work in a nearby paddock. Heysen's gum trees can seem to us a cliche, but when you stand next to his studio and see them- and many specific trees are recorded- and you look around the Adelaide Hills where red gums of the size and proportions Heysen painted are commonplace, you can get some sense of what he was trying to do. Of course I didn't photograph any of them, although I saw this tree on the other side of the road. It is E. rubida, mountain or white gum, for more see here.

The gravel is the turn into Heysen's drive. The tree in the centre will need another 100 years to look right.

Fifty years ago I walked down this road-it was unsealed-to visit my grandfather. I was with my mother and brother. On the left was a saw mill, now gone, which specialised in cutting up red gum. The turnoff to Heysen's is not much further than where the road disappears into the trees.

Hahndorf, looking west. These parts of the Adelaide Hills are inhabited by my childhood memories, by family folklore, by the raggled remnants of various relatives, by the bones of my ancestors. I was born on a wintry Sunday in nearby Mount Barker, and lived the first two years of my life in nearby Bridgewater. For a little potted biog try this: kb

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looking elsewhere

Eleanor gives us another look at trees: "Here are some photos from the Pound Walk at Ormiston Gorge, if you're interested, demonstrating the phenomenon of trees growing out of rocks in central Australia, plus a giant mistletoe in a gum tree."
Hardy and persistent, they remind us how frail is our hold on life. More of these trees can be found at:

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Friday, 5 January 2007

standing up for nature

This tree is being saved from development in Hong Kong. We presume the entire root system can be contained in that one barrel shape.

Here is the context -

Susoz, from personal political, has a fine eye for the value of a good tree.

This one is in Centennial Park. Here's another familiar Sydney image:

As Susoz says
"The Celtis australis in a Paddington (Sydney) backyard. These are
seen as weeds, they grow so quickly and spread like wildfire, but they
have a certain beauty too. They lose their leaves for just six weeks a

Celtis australis turns out to be known as the European nettle, the European Hackberry or the Lote tree, with nondescript flowers, edible berries and a gratifying resistance to pollution.

Image from here.

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In the path of progress

These trees, at Frimley Grove, Hawthorn, Adelaide, were shot by Davo from Adelaide.

"Can't really tell you much about the trees, either, except that one is a gum tree and the other is a peppercorn. I just happen to like them because they built the road around them. ..

Am also involved in a "Trees for Life" project - growing them from seed (they all start out that way - even the big ones :-) ) but will do a bit more detailed write-up when I find time."

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Thursday, 4 January 2007

A favourite tree in the rain in late summer, Old Dandenong rd., Heatherton. Sent to us by Fran at Scribbleblog.

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Wednesday, 3 January 2007


This tree (probably Scarlet oak Fagaceae Quercus coccinea) in Highfield Road, Camberwell (lat -37 50.88 long. 145 04.86E) has has been gutted to allow electricity and telecoms wires unimpeded passage. The heart of the tree has been removed and it is almost comic beside its near neighbour from across the street:


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We both have particular trees which we love. The kind of tree that we are just aware of as we go past. That make us wonder what they are, when and how they grew, how they have survived. Trees with a certain magnificence. Trees we touch and hear.

These trees embody a past, a culture, a changing landscape and microclimate. They mark the passage of fire, or the coming of the track and plough, the rise of suburbs, the collapse of an ecosystem, the policies of government, the stubborness of a landowner, the defensive tangle of understory.

They tell us we are not important in their scheme of things, but we can easily do great harm, and good only with vigilance and patience.

They give us scale in place and time.


For us, this blog is a reason to take a camera, to consider landscape again, and step aside from the hurry of our lives. It is also a modest and informal Register of Significant Trees, since the official versions don't post the images on the internet.

We are committed to the value of botanical diversity in our managed landscape, and wish to celebrate the oak and the monkey-puzzle as much as the blue gum and the Eucalyptus regnans of our title.

We hope you will join us. Email your own favourites, add more information to existing entries, share your own experience. Send us useful links at trees[at]themeda[.]net

If we do it together, this could be a place that speaks of significant things.

(The image is a detail of the bark on a roadside paper-bark in Park St, St Kilda).

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a free watering can

Last year our local council - Whitehorse - sent us a letter saying they would replace our nature strip tree, a pathetic object which they had removed soon after our arrival. There were several other vacant strips of grass in the area, and one day, about a month after their promised date, we arrived home to find this sapling in the middle of the grass, and a watering can on our porch. The sapling - acacia melanoxylon - has taken root after a bit of a dry spell - the watering was used elsewhere - and now gets a bucket of bathwater occasionally.

It is yet to grow into its environment, unlike its neighbouring trees across the road. The banksia planted across the street has thrived, butI have noticed a number of dead trees in the area which were planted at the same time. This is the leafy eastern suburbs too.

The sapling is located at Lat 37 43m 38s S Long. 141 12m 24s E, in Caroben Ave., Vermont. The idea of this street being an avenue is indicative of the absurdity of council street naming practices. kb

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in the tree top

David's lemon-scented gum, same day.

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Tuesday, 2 January 2007

lemon-scented gum

This lemon-scented gum sits in Park St, St Kilda, fifty metres from the corner of Mary Street, at the point where the fine avenue of Dutch elms and plane trees becomes a bit motley and multicultural. Shot in January.

A tree loved for its scent (of course) and the exquisite colour and texture of the bark -

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