Saving Snow Gums

A new generation

A new generation

Back in the 1990s we noticed a group of three unusual-looking low spreading white-trunked trees, high on a steep ridge overlooking our property near Strath Creek. From a distance we assumed they were stunted Candlebarks (Eucalyptus rubida), although it seemed an unlikely spot for them to be growing. On closer inspection they were clearly not Candlebarks, so we took samples of leaves, buds and fruit, and back home we very tentatively identified them as Snow Gums or White Sallee (Eucalyptus pauciflora ssp. pauciflora). This was later confirmed by a DSE botanist, who explained that, as well as in the mountains of eastern Victoria, isolated remnants of these trees can be found right across central and western Victoria to the South Australian border, and in lowland areas such as the Yarra Valley and even the Mornington Peninsula.

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Young and old

Young and old

In February 1998 some members of the Strath Creek Landcare Group visited the site and discovered that not only were the three gnarled old trees being knocked around by cattle, but there were several small progeny of the trees nearby that had large lignotubers (woody swellings at the base of the trunk containing food reserves and dormant buds), indicating that they were being repeatedly browsed by sheep and cattle, not to mention the wild goats that roamed the hills. So the Landcare group decided to protect the area, and in May 1998 an intrepid band of members fenced off about half an acre around the trees on the challenging steep rocky site.

Ancient and on the way out?

Ancient and on the way out?

Now, sixteen years later, the fence is sound, the three old trees are still alive, although one is looking worse for wear, and the good news is that there are at least fifteen healthy young Snow Gum sapling growing in the protected area alongside Silver Wattles (Acacia dealbata) and a Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon).

Leaning, but with a healthy canopy

Leaning, but with a healthy canopy

 

 

 

 

We have subsequently learnt of at least 2 other Snow Gums growing in the Strath Creek area – one at the western end of the Yea Spur, and the other off Allandale Road. Fortunately both of these sites are now protected under the Strath Creek Biodiversity Project, and hopefully will be able to regenerate naturally.

Some dieback, but surviving

Some dieback, but surviving

 

 

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A local botanist has suggested that some of these trees, with their massive lignotubers, could be very old indeed, perhaps many hundreds of years – but we’re not about to cut one down to count the growth rings !

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