Monday, 6 September 2010

Ain't misbehavin'

'Tis an odd thing in this tree business that causes one wonder at how the world works its ways so mysteriously that my daughters, adrift from me by the unfathomable workings of their mother's mind, should turn up in an English village in Derbyshire with the view of a Spotted Gum, E. maculata, on a slight rise across the road from my youngest's bedroom window. Two days after I took these photographs it snowed for the last time in the early spring of 2010. So these trees-there is apparently several others in the vicinty along the private drive to a local manor.

The Spotted Gum is an odd choice for a tree transplanted to a place where it remains leaved while every other tree in the place is denuded from the late autumn. The green and grey is perhaps more aesthetically pleasing in a village such as this, a grey stone and slatey place in the typical Midlands style of in a gully stretched along an upwards trending road. This is a place where for more than half a year the place lacks any sign of treed life, and even the 1200 year old yew in the churchyard with its stiff placidity, seems more lively than this gum.
A month later I spoke to the farmer of these few acres as he let his sheep into the field, and he told me that a previous owner of the place had an affection for Australia, where he had lived for a few years, that made him bring some seeds back to England, of which this tree is one. The barrier around the base is obviously to protect the base of the tree, although not even sheep, after a long winter cooped up in a barn would hazard a gnaw at the tart bark.

This tree is distributed in Australia, apart from the street trees we see in all our cities, along the coast from Bundaberg in the region of the Tropic of Capricorn (lat. 25S), to around the NSW-Victorian border near the Victorian town of Orbost (Lat. 37S). So this tree likes warm and wet, favouring summer rain. In its natural environment it flowers between May and September, or over the southern winter. I am now waiting on my daughter's observations as to the flowering time of this tree. I expect it to flower in the late autumn, before it gets too cold.

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Wednesday, 19 May 2010

While we are on the subject...

Here's one I prepared earlier....

Here is an even younger me-1967-the car belongs to a friend of mine from what my children call 'the olden days'. The picture was taken in the south west of Western Australia near the town of Walpole. The tree is a Red Tingle (Eucalyptus jacksonii ). I have always thought it was a karri (E. diversicolor), but that was because when I was young I didn't pay much attention to the sort of detail necessary to describe a tree. I have not been back to see this tree in 40 years, so I am not sure whether you can park your car in it now, but I would imagine not. The world has moved on from that sort of vandalism. Jacksonii grows up to 60m and has a very large buttressed base of up to 16m. The tree is in the Walpole-Nornalup National Park, an area of Western Australia in the south west which has a high rainfall, up to 40 inches a year in parts.
Nowadays there are tree top walks in the area to keep people's dirty shoes out of the undercover in an attempt to stop the spread of phytophthoria cinnamomi, or dieback. See: http://www.dec.wa.gov.au/content/view/213/548/1/3/ for more info. Including maps and a discussion of management. E. Jacksonii doesn't appear to get effected by the disease, although Eucalyptus marginata – Jarrah- is susceptible. See here for a list of WA species susceptible to the disease: http://www.dieback.org.au/go/what-is-dieback/susceptible-species .
I visited this area twice, once as the tourist pictured and once while we were revising the national mapping for the area. The mapping exercise allowed less time to marvel at the sheer scale of the trees, but we got to see a lot more of them.

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Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Home and Away

The picture shows me standing next to a boab tree (Adansonia gregorii) near Derby, WA, in the dry season of 1968. I was in the army at the time, and the Survey Unit of which I was a member was in the Kimberley of Western Australia doing some basic control work for 250,000 mapping of the area. We were camped on the Derby airstrip. The day this was taken was probably our day off, and we were visiting various highlights of the district, this being the only one I can remember. The tree was hollow inside and had been used at some points in its life as a gaol. Since I am less than 2 metres tall, I would estimate the diameter of the tree at more than 4 metres, or about 12 -14 feet. It wasn't a particularly lively tree-the leaf cover wasn't much-but the tree was very old. Some researchers propose the boab, which came from Africa, was brought to Australia in the migration out of Africa more than 70,000 years ago, and can't see an accidental landing of seeds from the sea. See http://www.uq.edu.au/nuq/jack/Boab Origins.html for some discussion on the matter, particularly the relationship between the boab and Bradshaw style Aboriginal paintings. As for me, I no longer look like that, and probably in shape look more like the tree.

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