A tree is just a tree until it is a landmark or a tree around which memorable events are centered. Around here, we think that trees are pretty important for a lot of reasons, ranging from their beauty to their amazing usefulness, regardless of whether they have historical significance. But let’s take a look at a few notable trees of Australia.
- The two Dig trees and the Face Tree. These three trees are part of a memorial associated with the Burke and Wills expedition. Ostensibly part of the Victorian Exploring Company, the expedition was not entirely popular. The men were determined to undertake the trip, however. It was a mixed success, during which the expedition leader twice split the party – a move that resulted in lost supplies and misdirected communication. William Brahe, one of the party leaders, headed back toward civilization with four members, one of them seriously injured. He took the bulk of the remaining supplies, but buried a cache of food stores using a slightly convolute method. He buried a bottle containing directions at the “dig” tree, then placed the cache closer to the “face” tree. The word “Dig” was carved into the bark of a mature coolibah (Eucalyptus microtheca). The Face tree is another coolabah with a rendition of Robert O’Hara Burke and his initials. The memorial is listed in the Queensland Heritage Register and the memorial area is managed by the Royal Historical Society of Queensland.
- The Bland Oak. This tree lacks the colorful history that distinguishes the Dig Tree. However, it was, until 1941, the largest introduced tree in Australia. At that time, it was struck by lightning, splitting the tree in half. The wood from the incident was used to carve the mayoral chair. Even after the lightning strike, it is still the largest oak in Sydney. Acorns have been gathered from the tree and planted about the city to continue its heritage.
- Djab Wurrung. Sadly, not allculturally significant trees are saved and protected. Cutting down the Djab Wurrung, “directions tree”, sparked protests and anger. Officials protest that it was not on the list of “culturally significant” trees. This begs the question, “Who decides?”
- Gija Jumulu. Not every sacred tree is ignored. The Gija Jumulu is a giant Boab tree (Adansonia gregorii) that stood in the way of building a highway. Thanks to donations, volunteers, and extreme care, the mature tree was moved from Telegraph Creek to Kings Park, where it has settled in and delights visitors to the park.
Honoring Our Own
We are extremely fond of trees here. One of our favorites is the Glauca Grey Grass tree (Xanthorrhoea Glauca). It is our good fortune to have a stand of them that we are proud to carefully manage. An article by Jakelin Troy, published in the Guardian more than two years ago, recommended that local trees be called by their local names. The local name for grass threes is Gadi. The people who lived in the area that is now Sydney were the Gadigal.
Troy also mentions the waratah, otherwise known as the red silky oak or Alloxylon Falmmeum. It is a tall, beautiful tree that grows in Queensland. Another tree the writer mentions by its local name is damun, or the Port Jackson fig. Damun is so numerous that it is said to be the home for a mischievous spirit.