A Blog by John Halkett

Category: Nature (Page 1 of 3)

Madagascar baobabs – a worldwide attraction

The remnants of what was once a more extensive forest.

There are few avenues were people drive out just to see at sunset, but the Avenue of the Baobabs at Morondava draws admirers from all over the world. A dusty road half an hour’s drive north of the town of Morondava on the west coast of Madagascar passes through a stunning grove of baobabs, the remnants of what was once a more extensive forest.

The famous Avenue of the Baobabs has perhaps more than 100 trees in the grove. The species – the read more

King Billy pine a nod to Tassie’s geological ancestry

King Billy pine in forest.

A throwback to the days of Gondwanaland

I have always been intrigued by King Billy or King William pine. I haven’t seen one in the wild, so a trip to Tasmania beckons! In a country now dominated by eucalypt trees King Billy pine is a throwback to the days of Gondwanaland. Then of course species of ancient conifer trees ruled the Southern Hemisphere.

Today very few of these ancient conifers remain where they co exits only in Tasmania along with a few other Gondwanaland conifer relicts and the broadleaf read more

Scribbly gum works of art fashioned by nature

The scribbly dialect zigzags around in a seemingly random and indecipherable pattern.

A standout feature of the spectacular forests of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney is the extensive stands of scribbly gum (Eucalyptus haemastoma), particularly in areas of poor soils on the typical sandstone country of the region. The trunk of each scribbly gum is a work of art fashioned by nature.

Scribbly gum is usually a small tree, frequently of very poor form 12 to 15 metres in height and 30 to 70 centimetres read more

Tastes like heaven smells like hell – encounter with the Durian tree not for the faint-hearted

Durian Fruit

Your breath will smell as if you’ve been French-kissing your dead grandmother.

Out in the Malaysian forest with forestry people beware if you happen upon a durian tree with ripe fruit. You are likely to be invited to try some as others watch on in a sort of forest initiation. It is really an invitation you can’t decline.

Durian (Durio zibethinus) trees are members of the hibiscus or mallow family, and are renowned for their large edible fruit. They are also related to breadfruit read more

The red cedars of Neverland

Peter McAra standing next to ared cedar trees

Recently I was fortunate to have had a tree adventure in Neverland, where I was privileged to spend some time with Peter Pan and Wendy. True! Neverland is a property in the Illawarra region of NSW, and is the home of Peter and Wendy McAra, better known as Peter Pan and Wendy.

They are both distinguished retired academics, and although you wouldn’t think so to look at him Peter is also a much celebrated author of numerous romantic novels and stage plays. But in addition to these interests, read more

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 read more

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 read more

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 read more

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 read more

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 read more

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