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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More Burra water, at the Gorge...

Some miles south of Burra is the Gorge. This is an old and popular camping site in the eastern edge of the ranges.
Somewhere in the gorge is a permanent spring supplying water to the very large and deep holes along the creek. This is red gum country.

Further up the creek.
This is a branch off a very large red gum, E. camaldulensis, that appears to have taken root in the banks of the creek. This branch is about half a metre in diameter.
The branch comes off the main trunk of the tree, left, crosses over the footpath, branches into two, both parts of which seem to have taken root. The trunk is probably 2 metres in diameter but only about 10m above ground level.
The form of the tree is visible mainly because of the amount of mistletoe it carries. It is a very wide tree, but not that tall, perhaps 25-30m. The banks of teh creek are very steep at this point.

Further down the creek I saw this tree, perhaps 8m in diameter, but burnt so that its trunk has split in two forming two very old and stumpy trees. Several other Red gums in the vicinity were similar in form, which is not uncommon in old red gum. The trunk was probably been burnt through deliberate firing and misadventure, as it would now form a useful windbreak, and may have once been a slow combustion stove as the innards of the tree burnt.

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Big Cornish holes...

Here is more Cornish handiwork. This is a view of the Burra mine, also a copper mine, a deposit discovered in the early 1840s, like Kapunda. This hole was mined a lot longer, and a lot more copper was extracted. The holes is very deep, at least 50m under water level.

Here is a better view of the holes. Ain’t that special. The museum is the buildings at the rear of the lake.
I am not as interested in the mine as the reclamation at the edges. These pines...
I don’t know the species, and have no means at the moment of finding out. I will give some indicators, like cones, needles etc.
Sapling, new fruit, new needles.
Big lot of trees man, all over the place. This is disturbed ground, these are weeds, unless they are deliberately planted, in that case they are weeds with a purpose.
For more on Burra try here.

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The Burra...

This is a row of miner’s cottages in Burra, about 150km north of Adelaide. The tree is a spotted gum of rather stout proportions, pollarded of course. Burra is an old copper town.

Another row of cottages, down by the river. This is one of two such rows in Paxton Square. The trees are quite common street trees in South Australia. They provide no shade and lots of little seed pods to litter the streets. The trunks are quite solid, so they may represent something about the bourgeois spirit with which the colony was founded in 1835.

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Riders of the purple...

Just outside the grape region of the Barossa is Kapunda, the first mining town in Australia. We haven’t exhausted our first in Australias yet and we are a short distance into our trip. Copper was discovered in 1840 here by local squatter, Mr Dutton on his ride back from somewhere. Now what has this to do with trees. Well you might ask, but it has a few trees around, and it is on the way to another copper mine, larger, which has a lot of trees. Trees were cut to feed the steam pump, line the stopes, and roof the miners’ houses. That’s my excuse. The chimney was built by the Cornish miners who worked the mine. The purple flower is Salvation Jane, or Patterson’s curse, depending where you are. It is now illegal for a local Council to remove these weeds from the roadside because they provide nectar of bees. Mr Dutton went on to own a station, now historical, called Anlaby, and one of his descendants was the writer poet, Geoffrey Dutton.

This hole was dug by hand. 14000 tons of ore was got from here, average grade 22%, a deposit which would cause paroxysms of joy in any mining company’s boardroom today. At first it was bagged and sent to Wales for smelting, but eventually it was smelted on site, using even more trees.
Here is a statue of the bugger that did the job. Must’ve taken a week given the size of him. I think there were several hundred employed as miners, others in ancillary trades. Mostly Cornish. Mining history in SA is Cornish during colonial times.

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Herbig's tree...

This tree is on the side of the road just outside Springton, in the eastern Barossa at about lat -34 42 46 long 139 05 32. The tree is just off the road, and is a rather startling object worth a stop. The family after whom it is named came from Gruenberg, Silesia in the kingdom of Prussia. My great great grandmother may have known this family. German Lutherans settled in this area from the 1840s, but the Herbig family lived here from 1855. This was their house.

This is a red gum, E. Camaldulensis, rather deformed now some of the top has come off and regrowth has taken place. But, look at the butt, 20m at least. Back view: more butt, but completely hollow inside, just the place to put the 9 kids. I think it was 9, it may have been more.
Signs: ancestor worship is big in SA. I am into it as far as I can get, pilgrimage after pilgrimage to every stone they ever touched, and some they didn’t.
Just across the road, in the car park is the well and horse trough. This may have been the bathroom too, but what is a hollow log to some is ensuite to others.

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Out of place?...

Several trees on the side of War Memorial Drive, in North Adelaide, attracted my attention because of the bright yellow flower buds which seemed to be prolific. These trees I have identified tentatively as E. stricklandii, Goldfields Yellow flowering Gum, or Sticklands Gum. These trees are among the usual inhabitants of city parks, the weeds, brought in to fill a perceived gap in local vegetation, drought hardiness, coming as it does from the Western Australian goldfields are around Coolgardie and Norseman.

The flower buds are bright yellow in the sun, about 2 to 2.5cm long, penile in shape, the caps are the same length as the base, although the caps are larger and brighter in colour. Seven seems to be their lucky number, the central bud is at right angles to the other six which are hexagonally spread around the peduncle. The peduncle is broad and flat, odd really. The flowers are yellow, although these trees haven’t flowered as yet. These flowers apparently are good nectar producers, which is probably why they have been imported from WA.
The old fruit is bell or urn shaped, with recessed valves under a nice cap. The valves split 4 ways when revealed. Mature fruit is quite large, these are about 3cm long and 1.5 in diameter. They cluster quite thickly on the branches, which means quite a lot of seed will be shed at release.
Leaves are longish, up to 150mm, sort of light green, although the young leaves are purple in the right light. Branches are a bright red-brown, especially where new growth is occurring. The older branches are dull, with a dark stem at the base of the tree. Not sure what to make of these trees, because they are in a public park, however, it is very dry at the moment and the trees seem to be doing quite well. It is an interesting question, whether we should maintain biological integrity by planting only locally indigenous plants, or whether we should mix and match according to our perceptions of the vagaries of the climate.

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Tuesday, 16 October 2007


This is the Lutheran Church at Gruenberg in the Barossa Valley in South Australia (-34 28 38 long 139 06 03). The church is of some significance to me because my ancestors helped build this church, worshipped here, and are buried in the graveyard. We are talking about my great great great grandfather and mother. My great great grandmother came from Guenberg in Silesia. My great great grandfather, however, is buried at Tiparra, a few miles from where I am writing this in Ardrossan on Yorke Peninsula. What I think is unusual about this church is its location. This is not the middle of a village or town, but a crossroads, dirt roads at that.

The church is still used, its grounds a beautifully maintained, and the place is surrounded by exotic trees. A row of cypress, some palms, and a few pines. The cemetery is in the native bush at the back. This is the front gate, rather ostentatious with its ironwork sign.
The rear of the church is well kept, pleasing in proportions, tidy in finish. It is rather liberal, very simple in design. The people who worshipped here, my ancestors too, were rather strict and humorless evangelical Lutherans, who fled their home country because Friedrich Wilhelm III, King of Prussia, wanted the evangelicals to join in the State sponsored church. They emigrated rather than lower their standards.
The old manse: the beauty of this building is in its simplicity.
Here is the inspiration for this post, the view from the road. Again the simplicity of the view is beautiful. The Barossa is the first great wine growing region in Australia, a practice introduced by the Lutherans in the early 1840s when they settled the Valley. Vast areas of the region are in the grip of the grape.
And here is Gottlieb’s original house. Now up for sale, it is 3br on 15 acres, 1 hour to town. Bargain if you have a lazy 250K. By the way, Gruenberg is now Zielona Gora, in western Poland, and coincidentally, the previous post was about a family who also came from there, who lived in a tree. Another odd coincidence is that when living in Sweden we were friends with a woman who came from Zielona Gora.

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Friday, 12 October 2007


This is Brachychiton populneus - Kurrajong. This one is on or other side of the road from the E.stricklandii mentioned in the next blog. This is one of a small group of several Brachychiton species. These are small trees as yet, possibly they will grow to 10m. They have a dense crown of foliage, are quite shady to stand under, unlike the mallee and the gums on the other side of the road. These trees are in flower.

The male flower are bell shaped, quite large, up to 5cm, although the size varies. The flowers don’t seem to have any scent, but they are bright and cheerful. Why it is that nature endows the male flower and some animals with all colour and movement, yet human males are subject to the worst excesses of , is something of a worry, but we are not going to bother with it. We have decided to be happy, like a Kurrajong. The most immediate relative of this tree is the Illawarra Flame tree, B. Acerifolius.
Buds form small, light green pods.

Fruit is a large leathery pod full of three rows of tightly packed yellow seeds. These trees are often used as fodder trees, whether the pods or the leaves are used, I don’t know, and have no means of finding out. Some people are wary of these pods, the small hairs infesting the follicle are irritating on the skin, and the tree is sometimes called the “itchy tree”.
Stem of the trunk is solid, firmly situated, and even in a small tree quite large. This one is about 30-40cm in diameter, the tree is only 5m.

The neighbouring tree seems to be a small B. rupestre - Bottle tree. This tree should grow twice the height of its companion-up to 20m-and form the distinct bottle shape evident even here.

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