Perth is Tuart Country

Last July I blogged about land clearing in WA. Felling of trees not only occurs in rural areas, but also the suburban areas of our cities – some local councils being rather adept at razing a tree if it’s in the way.

tuart near my house

Last year The City of Stirling wanted to rezone numerous small parks from open space to business or residential. Local residents weren’t impressed and compiled petitions to save their local parks and trees [1]. One of these parks was in Wembley Downs and has mature tuarts and xanthorrhoea. It was to be rezoned for business [2] so the area could be “reinvigorated” [3], which would mean the end of these beautiful trees. Some of them could be hundreds of years old and people want to fell them to make some money. Tuarts this old can have hollows that birds such as Carnaby’s black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus latirostris) use as nesting sites – rarer and rarer in the cleared land of Perth and its suburbs. A tree will only develop hollows after decades of growth and a bushfire, which doesn’t happen to the isolated trees set among houses in our suburbs.

Two months after the Wembley Downs rezoning was decided by the Council, the Wembley Downs Shopping Centre directly behind the park, burnt down in an electrical fire [4]. These two events were unrelated, but if the rezoning was passed, the whole area can be redeveloped. I’ve been meaning to find out the outcome of the rezoning since last August, but I still haven’t.

tuart near my house John Hunter wrote about local government tree felling in his Urban Antics column in the spring issue of Landscope magazine.

We are all the custodians of the environment within our small lots in suburbia and while it can be hazardous to accumulate logs and ground refuse for reptile habitat, we sure can do something better in this ‘urban desert’ by planting native vegetation and looking after trees of known habitat value. [5]

Tuart Dwellers Perth and the coastal strip north and south is the only place tuart trees (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) grow. Tuarts are beautiful, if a bit untidy with their habit of dropping branches. A children’s picture book about this beautiful tree has just been published. One day I hope the tuart in my garden will become a home to the animals depicted in Tuart Dwellers [6]. My tuart is five years old and has been a very happy tree, or more likely the tree makes me happy. There are no power lines or other obstructions above, so its branches can reach for the sky as much as they want.

tuart in winter before the infestation Unfortunately the insects that have already made homes among the tuart’s leaves are causing quite a bit of damage. There are caterpillars that chew the leaves. But the bigger problem is the sap-sucking psyllids, also known as eucalyptus lerps, because the nymph constructs a “lerp” to hide under [7]. A myriad of insects co-evolved with eucalypts to feed on their leaves. As fast as the leaves are eaten, new ones grow and predation by birds ensures the tree continues to provide food for the insects and birds. The tuart in my garden was having a hard time and since spring has lost masses of leaves. A badly psyllid infested tree might defoliate entirely. Due to the eucalyptus’ epicormic shoots, leaves would regrow, but if infestation keeps happening the tree may die [7].

rainbow lorikeet in the tuart Then I discovered two rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) hiding in the tuart’s not very lofty heights. I didn’t think they ate insects, until I saw that’s exactly what they were doing! Although it’s more likely they’re eating the starchy lerps, than the psyllid nymphs. They visit regularly and even when buffeted by the wind, feast on the profusion of tasty treats. Rainbow lorikeets are a declared pest in WA [8], but they’re my friends now. If they keep it up, I’m hoping the leaves will win out before summer is over.

rainbow lorikeet eating lerps Others have blogged about the beauty of trees living for so long. Kirsten at Milkwood blogged about past traditions of planting a grove of trees for a baby at birth. They grow and mature with the child, although usually the reason for this was to harvest the wood at the child’s entry to adulthood or marriage. Kirsten and Nick are planning a grove for their first born child and are considering the species of tree. I think they should plant a variety of species, to make a grove full of biodiversity.

Jenny at Kiwi Garden blogged about trees as living connections, and the trees she’s planted for each of her grandchildren and other trees people in her life have planted to remember loved ones.

The placenta will be put into the hole and planted with the tree. In this way his tie will be especially forged to the land…This tree won’t be planted in isolation – I plan to plant it as part of native grove that will include trees for his cousins and two-year brother. Trees evoke strong natural connections with our life experiences.

Everyone should plant a tree or two to remember and celebrate their loved ones.

=^.^=

References

  1. Leitch, Chris (2008) “Resident protest runs hot” The Stirling Times, 21 October, p.1
  2. City of Stirling (2008) District Planning Scheme No. 2: Amendment no. 537
  3. Valenti, Karen (2008) “Fears for tree loss” The Stirling Times, 19 August, p.1
  4. Valenti & Thomson (2008) “Shops wiped out in blaze” The Stirling Times, 21 October, p.3
  5. Hunter, John (2008) “Dead Wood” Landscope, vol.24, no.1, p.62
  6. Ramage, Jan & Hickman, Ellen (2008) Tuart Dwellers Perth: Department of Environment and Conservation
  7. Collett, Nick (2001) Psyllid biology and eucalypt defoliation Victoria: Department of Primary Industries
  8. Chapman & Massam (2007) Rainbow lorikeet Pestnote no.200. Perth: Department of Agriculture and Food

One thought on “Perth is Tuart Country

  1. Hi Clare,

    What a lovely piece of information and photographs you have included. I really enjoyed the read. I spot willy wagtails all the time in our suburb and they do eat insects from the ground but disturb them first by wagging their tails above the area. How clever nature is.

    Cheers Jan

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