Article prepared by Ivor & Ruth Graney
Portland Field Nats have cancelled all group activities and with the latest restrictions keeping us at home it has inspired us to take notice of what it happening on our doorsteps. With that in mind Ivor & I have some images to share, some of which have been taken through the kitchen window. We have two Eucalyptus leucoxylon megalocarpa on either side of the entrance to our property, one of which is actually in our front garden. This species is known in South Australia as Blue Gum and rivals the River Red Gum Eucalyptus cameldulensis in stature and magnificence when fully mature. Our trees are less than 50 years old as Ivor planted them as seedlings soon after we came to Narrawong in 1978. They have provided us with endless pleasure not just when they flower at this time of year but they are on the koala menu almost to the point of desecration from over browsing. In these images the defoliation at the top of the tree is evident, with the tree putting out new growth lower down. There is no doubt koalas are very appealing and the babies even more so, however they have killed a huge number of trees in our district so in order to safeguard their future and our beautiful trees, Ivor guarded one of the trees mentioned as eventually it had become so severely defoliated it was at risk of dying. They have other trees from which to feed but the leucoxylons are one of their favourites.
Ivor’s crude guards eventually saved the tree but he also had to guard the Acacia next to it as it provided access to the eucalypt. Ivor jokingly said he was making it into an ironbark!! Now we can enjoy the pale pink blossom along with Red Wattlebirds, New Holland, Yellow-faced, White-eared, White-naped Honeyeaters to name a few.
The other E. leucoxylon in the front garden has a vegetative guard of rampant Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis) which is not an Australian native plant and was probably already in the garden when we came and has flourished with the support of the eucalypt. As you can see it has multiple stems all around the trunk of the eucalypt and its foliage branches make the sturdy limbs of the eucalypt virtually impossible for koalas to access. I am sure there would be Australian plants that would provide an equivalent vegetative guard for vulnerable trees.
This truly delightful photo of Ivor’s which he has called ‘Mother and Son’ could not be taken now as the branches cradling them have been overtaken with the Cape Honeysuckle. We still very occasionally see a koala in this tree but they don’t stay long, perhaps due to the difficulty in moving about in it. This is fine with us as the tree is able to cope with the sparse visits and still manages to provide stunning dark crimson blossom enjoyed by the Honeyeaters, Crimson Rosellas and us and the gum-nuts by the Gang-gang cockatoos.