Talking Trees

A Blog by John Halkett

Blue quandong – bush tucker and jam

Bushy trees growing on the banks of the Fitzroy River

What is a blue quandong (Elaeocarpus angustifolius) tree? Also called the blue marble tree or blue fig, though it is not a type of fig. Quandong is a corruption of guwandbang, a word of the Wiradjuri aboriginal people of Australia, is a tall, elaboratively buttressed, fast growing evergreen tree. It grows from South East Asia to the south of Queensland and northern New South Wales, preferring rainforests and the banks of streams. Quandong trees can also be found in New Caledonia

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When it’s cold the tough get going

Siberian larch – boreal forest.

The realm of the Siberian larch.

The largest forested region on the planet is the boreal coniferous tract, which accounts for about a third of the Earth’s total forest cover and dwarfs tropical rainforests. Boreal forests blanket a swathe around the Arctic Circle, across Alaska and into northern Canada. They cover about eight million square kilometres of Siberia alone, where they are known as the taiga. Vast amounts of carbon are lock up there, with so much biomass that worldwide levels of

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Ghost gums and the desert oak

Ghost Gums in Central Australia

This photograph was taken by my brother-in-law David Feitz. In his day he was one of the country’s outstanding photographers of the Australian outback. This Central Australian ghost gums image is emblematic of the paintings of several Australian artists. Famous amongst them was aboriginal artist Albert Namarjira. He received international acclaim as a painter, particularly for his watercolour landscapes during the 1940s and 50s. A number of his painting were renowned for their striking

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From tepees to a mainstay of Canada’s timber industry

Lodgepine forest

Lodgepole pine is a coniferous linchpin of forest ecosystems across a vast area that encompasses the western Canadian province of British Columbia and runs down the Rocky Mountains into the United States of America. It is a highly adaptable tree that can grow in all sorts of environments, from water-logged bogs to dry sandy soils.

Tall, straight and slender, it takes its name from the use of Canada’s first people for tepees, and by subsequent settlers for the construction of buildings. Also

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Famous London plane trees disappearing from Sydney streets

El-Alamein Memorial Fountain and plane trees.

Living in Sydney’s inner-city suburb of King’s Cross as I do the dominant tree in the neighbourhood is the deciduous London plane tree. With large maple-like leaves and towering height the London plane is a tree of pump and circumstance. The branches begin high up the trunk so that mature trees have a lofty, architectural quality, giving plenty of shade without restricting the view at street level.

Planted throughout London in the nineteenth century to complement the cities imposing

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British Columbia… awe-inspiring trees and forests

Image of BC coastal temperate forest

Back from Canada where again I was super impressed with the extent and spectacle that British Columbia’s (BC) towering trees and forests present. These forests are truly massive, covering an area of about 60 million hectares. You could drop both France and Germany into BC’s forests and they would disappear beneath the trees. Not forgetting of course that they provide habitat for an iconic population of North American large animals such as black bears, cougars, deer, coyotes and grey wolves.

Most

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Purple rain in November

Jacaranda tree, Sydney.

I can’t let November pass without mentioning the stunning jacaranda trees, now so much a feature of Sydney’s cityscape. The jacaranda tree’s hold on Sydney and its imagination is now so well entrenched that the tree is often mistaken for an Australian native. It’s actually indigenous to south America.

The species most commonly planted in Sydney, Jacaranda mimosifolia, was collected and taken to the Royal Gardens at Kew, England, in about 1818. One early source gives the credit to plant

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‘Powder of the Devil’ … the revolutionary cure for malaria

Cinchona Tree

Now the national tree of Peru and Ecuador, Cinchona changed the course of world history. There are more than 20 species of this impressive 25 metre tree with large, shiny, conspicuously veined leaves and deliciously fragrant, white to lilac-pink flowers that grow in small clusters, generally pollinated by butterflies and hummingbirds. But the tree’s real claim to fame is the effectiveness of its bark for treating malaria.

In the early seventeenth century, when Spanish colonists and Jesuit missionaries

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From primitive rafts to speedy bombers

Bulsa Plantation

The world’s lightest hardwood continues to be widely grown. Balsa (Ochroma pyramidale) is a large, fast-growing tree native from southern Mexico to southern Brazil, but can now be found in many other countries, including Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Solomon Islands.

Balsa trees can establish themselves in forest clearings or on abandoned agricultural fields and grow extremely rapidly. Their speed of growth accounts for the lightness of the wood, which has a lower density

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More than just wine bottle stoppers

Harvesting Cork Trees

Cork oak, Quercus suber a medium-sized, evergreen tree is the primary source of cork for wine bottle stoppers and other uses. It is native to southwest Europe and northwest Africa. It grows to up to 20 metres, although it is typically more stunted in its native environment.

Cork oaks commonly live more than 200 years. Cork harvesting is done entirely without machinery. The European cork industry produces 340,000 tonnes of cork a year, with a value of €1.5 billion and employs 30,000 people.

The

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