Talking Trees

A Blog by John Halkett

Category: Plants (page 1 of 2)

‘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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More trees – you will feel better

Couple walking dog in forest

As if being renewable, storing carbon and contributing to climate change mitigation isn’t enough – trees make you feel better – true! It’s not stretching the point to say your health and well-being are likely to be improved if you walk amongst the trees.

Increasing urbanisation means that people have less access to nature in their daily lives. Australians on average now spend about 90 per cent of their time indoors. This coincides with reports of increasing obesity and nearly half of Australians

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New Zealand’s oldest exotic tree still going strong

Williams good Christian venerable old pear tree.

Just before launching into this month’s column I want to express my appreciation to the Forestry Corporation of NSW for agreeing to continue to support and sponsor this column in 2019. So thanks to chief executive Nick Roberts and staff.

Right, well thinking of exotic trees in a New Zealand forestry context radiata pine immediately springs to mind. However, the country’s oldest exotic tree, a Williams good Christian pear tree near Kerikeri in Northland, is still going strong as it enters its

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They speak a language that the strangers do not know

Umbrella thorn acacia trees pump toxic substances into their leaves to rid themselves of browsing giraffes.

This blog begs the question do trees talk? Or perhaps more specifically do they communicate with each other? According to the dictionary definition, language is what people use when we talk to each other. Looked at this way, humans are the only beings who can use language, because the concept is limited to our species. But do trees communicate with each other? If so how, they definitely do not produce sounds, so there’s nothing to hear. It turns out trees have a completely different way of

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Singapore’s concrete and steel Supertrees

Singapore’s 18 Supertrees have become shorthand for Singapore itself, in much the same way that the Eiffel Tower says Paris.

Known for doing things on a grand scale, the stylish city of Singapore has created the ultimate green space, but with a difference. Its city forest, built from concrete and steel is nonetheless a celebration of trees, and now the city’s distinguishing tourist attraction. The city’s futuristic Supertree Grove of 18 Supertrees has become shorthand for Singapore itself, in much the same way that the Eiffel Tower says Paris. Each Supertree consists of a trunk

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Red gums sentinels to First Fleet arrival

Red-gum

The only surviving eucalypts from the natural forest in the garden are two twin red gums perched up on the cliff behind the Opera House on the Bennelong lawn. No doubt they were mere saplings in 1788 when the 11 tall, wooden ships of the First Fleet arrived in Sydney. Incredibly, this Bennelong twins alone have survived so close to the city. Referring to them, Ashley Hay (Gum, 2002 Duffy & Snellgrove, Potts Point, NSW, Australia.) wrote:

The view from [its] crown began to change from the

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Sydney’s Wishing Tree

The Wishing tree, Sydney’s Botanic Gardens, about 1880: Probably the most notable tree to have grown in the Gardens.

Sydney’s Botanic Gardens are an important part of Australia’s tree heritage and Australia’s oldest scientific institution. Established during the reign of King George III, the Gardens were granted the royal epithet in 1959 by his great-great-great-great-granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II. The gardens are an important part of Australia’s tree heritage. The botanic gardens are the site of the first farm which was began within weeks of the establishment of the colony of New South

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Baobab trees – upside-down giants

Boabab Tree

Among the world’s most unusual trees, the baobabs are frequently described as being grotesque because of their huge, swollen, bottle-shaped trunks supporting a shallow crown of ungainly branches.

Standing tall on the sunburned plains of Africa and Australia, baobabs may be amongst the oldest life forms on the planet. Many of the specimens standing today have been around for well over two thousand years. Tremendous in size and bizarre in appearance, they have provided food, medicine, and

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