Posts Tagged ‘Queensland Gum’

the Queensland Gum – or river red gum

February 23, 2012

Here she is again – beautifully described by John Vallins in the Guardian’s ‘Country Diary’ column.

the Botanical Gardens, Canberra

February 5, 2012

We went to the Botty Gardens sometimes when we were students at the ANU – when it was a bare-ish hillside not yet fully vacated by the sheep.  I remember some trees.  There was a strange plan at the time to spend a lot of taxpayers’ money on creating a rainforest gully.  It would involve sprinklers that switched on and off automatically, creating a fine mist over the gully for precise hours of every day.  How we laughed!  What moonshine, we thought.  Nearly as dreamlike a folly as the design for the Black Mountain Tower, we mocked.  Canberra, in case you have forgotten, is in outback NSW – drought-ridden years are scarcely varied with frosty winters.  The dominant colour for the grass in the surrounding landscape is a curiously fulvous dusty yellow-brown.  And that may also have been true of the ACT once.  Over the decades, though, Canberra’s micro-geography was forcibly re-created as something quite other – almost alien – a dream oasis of freshness.  And now it balances in a complex equilibrium between the two things: its natural self of origin, and its artificial re-creation co-exist and refract each other most delicately and precisely.

I arrived into Canberra by train in February of 1967, when the contrasts felt raw – and for years afterwards a poem about that experience bubbled away in my mind.

The Botanical Gardens nowadays are a glorious place – a world of delights where small paths wander off through gullies and rain forests, over streams, across scaled-down grassy savannahs.  And everywhere, everywhere are the noble gum trees, great wonders of creation fit to take your breath away.  In nature, no such collection of disparate specimens would exist together, but here trees from every State and every climate thrive, cheek by jowl with one another.

  This scribbly gum is too big for my camera.  I want to show the scribbles, but then I have to be this close to it, so I can’t show the grandeur.  It’s here because it’s amazing, but also because its botanical name is ‘Eucalyptus Rossii’ – so, clearly it is my scribbler brother’s emblem.

I photographed a lot of the labels, but now I can’t read it at this size. Same problem as before – to get the sign in at all one has to get too close to the tree. Enlarged, the notice seems to say ‘Eucalyptus Scoparia’ – and Wikipedia tells me that that is the Wallangarra White Gum – but it also says it is a small to medium tree, which this certainly is not.  But maybe it just thrives in the Botanical Gardens.  This beauty is shedding its bark in great long strips.  I was looking for a paper bark and for a stringybark – two of the few names for gum trees that I actually know.  (I know Iron Bark as well, maybe because of the ‘Man from Ironbark’  poem.  Watch out for this link – they’ve accidentally run the first two stanzas together.  My older brother used to laugh vastly over Paterson’s joke, when we were kids.  He knew the poem off by heart and I bet he still does.)  They have all of these trees in Canberra, and many more.

Another one (or maybe more of the same one?) – Andrew’s hat gives a sense of perspective.

Light and dark.  Lightness and weight.  Refinement and solidity.  the leaves are stilll and papery while the light glistens on them.

But I was still searching for a Paperbark.

So glamorous, with its exotic stripes, like some kind of African antelope, or a leopard – and all along it’s a Queensland gum!  I’ve never seen one of these in Queensland, I thought.  But I didn’t notice much as a child – always buried in a book.  I was so unsure that I checked by Google – and find that it’s Eucalyptus Tereticornis – also known (gloriously) as a Bastard Box, a Blue Gum, Flooded Gum, Grey Gum, Mountain Gum, Forest Red Gum, Queensland Blue Gum, Red Gum, Red Ironbark, Red Irongum and Slaty Gum.  Thank you for that, Wikipedia –  (but can I trust you?)  Furthermore, as the proliferation of fun names would suggest, they’re all over the place – from New Guinea all the way down to south-eastern Victoria – and the European naming process has been going on since 1793.  (I wonder what the aboriginals call them?  called them?) I feel proud to read that it has a ‘strong, hard and durable heartwood’ and is one of the ‘key canopy species’.  There’s something about the word ‘heartwood’ that fills the soul  and about ‘canopy’ that feels protective.  I’m falling in love with the Queensland Gum, regardless of its dark side as a Bastard Box, or its working life as railway sleepers.

So here it is again – too lovely to leave.  Here you can see the blue tones on the trunk, and I suppose the pinkish bits justify ‘red’.  Wikipedia (again) explains that the different colours are related to its habit of shedding bark in strips.

This was the day I met Val for coffee in the gardens: we laughed at the clowning choughs, loved the magpies’ song, and behaved ourselves by not feeding any birds at all.

Salute to Val’s wonderful blog about Canberra: here is Black Mountain Tower.

Here is our morning coffee (or was it lunch?) – either way – with ducks on the grass

 Val and a magpie.

choughs looking grumpy.

I have to stop.  It would take forever to tell everything.  And this is just the first day.


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