A Blog by John Halkett

Category: Nature (Page 1 of 4)

Iconic grass trees a distinctive feature of inland Australia

Perennial, flowering plants with some species growing to six metres tall.

Grass trees (Xanthorrhoea) are an endemic Australian genus of 28 species, only a few of which grow substantial above-ground stems. They are iconic perennial, flowering plants with the smallest species growing to about a metre and others reaching 6 metres tall.

Grass trees have a unique structure, with a true stem of fibrous conducting tissue supported by a sheath of tightly packed old leaf bases glued by a reddish crystalline resin.
Hundreds of very narrow, hard-textured leaves radiate from the apex of each branch. … Read more “Iconic grass trees a distinctive feature of inland Australia”

Coastal beauty a New Zealand Christmas celebration

The pōhutukawa is one of twelve Metrosideros species endemic to New Zealand and has an important place in New Zealand culture for its strength and beauty.

The pōhutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa), is New Zealand’s most colourful flowering tree. Its canopy bursts into a sheet of brilliant crimson red (or occasionally orange, yellow or white) blossom in early summer, which earns it the alternative name of New Zealand Christmas Tree.

Pōhutukawa is a coastal evergreen tree in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae and it found on the Northern half of the New Zealand ‘s North Island, evergreen coastal forest… Read more “Coastal beauty a New Zealand Christmas celebration”

Algerian oak planted to mark British superiority

Tree planting to mark first all-Australian conference in February 1890 to discuss the introduction of a federal system of government.

Australia’s foundation strong colonial ties continued to be evident in the selection of trees planted to mark formal occasions, such as visits by British royalty or a commemoration by early Sydney-based governors and other dignitaries.

When the NSW Premier Sir Henry Parkes presided over the first all-Australian conference in February 1890 to discuss the introduction of a federal system of government, he planted and an oak tree in the gardens of Parliament… Read more “Algerian oak planted to mark British superiority”

Foundation tree of scientific knowledge

An apple tree has grown at Isaac Newton’s mother’s Lincolnshire home for hundreds of years, honoured as the inspiration for his celebrated science.

In 1666 Isaac Newton asked: “Why should that apple always descend perpendicular to the ground? … Why should it not go sideways, or upwards, but constantly to the earth’s centre? Assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it.” With that the origin story of Newton’s theory of gravity was born.

Seventeenth century philosopher William Stukeley records the after dinner with this friend Isaac Newton, the two of them went outside where, “under the … Read more “Foundation tree of scientific knowledge”

Exquisite, specular cherry blossoms

Japan is particularly famous for its cherry blossom due its large number of varieties and the nationwide celebrations during the blooming season.

A cherry blossom is the flower from a Prunus tree, of which there are many different kinds. Cherry blossoms are found throughout the world being especially common in regions in the Northern Hemisphere with temperate climates, including Japan, China, and Korea, as well as Nepal, India, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, and several areas across northern Europe.

Japan is particularly famous for its cherry flowers due its large number of varieties… Read more “Exquisite, specular cherry blossoms”

Tree that powered the development of civilisation

10,000 years ago, vast cedar forests stretched across the eastern Mediterranean towards Mesopotamia and what is now southwestern Iran.

The cedar of Lebanon or Lebanese cedar is a species of tree in the pine family, native to the mountains of the Eastern Mediterranean basin. It is a large evergreen conifer that has great religious and historical significance in the cultures of the Middle East, and is referenced many times in the literature of ancient civilisations.

It is no exaggeration to say that the magnificent cedar of Lebanon played a crucial role in the development of civilisation. We … Read more “Tree that powered the development of civilisation”

Ironbark trees … part of the Australian lexicon

Ironbark trees are well woven into Australia’s folklore. They feature in poetry and essays from colonial times to the present. A common name of a number of species in three Eucalyptus groups, ironbark trees have dark, deeply furrowed bark. They are probably the most distinctive and easily recognised tree of the Australian eucalypt forest and are the source of some of our highest quality hardwoods.

Instead of being shed annually as in many of the other species of Eucalyptus, the dead bark accumulates on ironbark trees, forming the fissures. It becomes rough after drying out and becomes impregnated… Read more “Ironbark trees … part of the Australian lexicon”

The spectacular and bizarre Dragon’s Blood tree – get one for your garden

Eerie demeanour heightened by the tear drops of translucent blood-red resin that ooze from wounded limbs.

Very trendy across Sydney, and as dear as poison the Dragon’s Blood tree is a cross somewhere between spectacular and bizarre.

Endemic to the Yemeni island off Socotra, near the Horn of Africa Dragon’s Blood (Dracaena cinnabari) trees have an eerie, prehistoric aspect. Their bizarre shape, like umbrellas blowing inside-out, helps them to survive on the arid, thin soil that covers the island’s granite mountains and limestone plateaus. Rainfall is rare, but occasional… Read more “The spectacular and bizarre Dragon’s Blood tree – get one for your garden”

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 biggest and most famous of Madagascar’s six species of baobabs – is Adansonia grandidieri taking its name from two… Read more “Madagascar baobabs – a worldwide attraction”

King Billy pine a nod to Tassie’s geological ancestry

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 Tasmanian myrtle (Nothofagus cunninghamii). Those that do have retreated to small scattered refugees… Read more “King Billy pine a nod to Tassie’s geological ancestry”

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