Queensland Bottle Trees get their name from their distinctive shape, which frequently resembles a graceful wine bottle. The “Bottles” are a sort of emergency reservoir of fluid for dry seasons. Bottle trees are native to Australia, and are frequently left standing when farmers clear semi-evergreen vine thickets. They take a while to grow, but are easily transplanted as adult trees. They are classified as a deciduous succulent, which means that they do drop their leaves seasonally.
A Native Tree for the Times
So why a native tree for the times? As bush fires rage in various parts of Australia and smoke harasses residents of Sydney and other populated areas, that inevitable phrase, “Global Warming” keeps coming up. It is accompanied by a discussion of what kinds of trees are most susceptible to bush or forest fires and which ones stand out as being “flame resistant.” There are several schools of thought currently being bandied about, including some growling about eucalyptus trees contributing to the fires in California. As a result, homeowners and horticulturalists have been looking at plants, seeking those that are flame resistant.
Flammable vs. Flame Resistant Plants
All plants will burn when exposed to sufficiently hot fires. Nearly all evergreen trees, including eucalyptus, have an oily resin that ignites easily. Evergreen forests are prone to crown fires, which are difficult to fight as the flames leap from tree to tree. Eucalyptus, also a native of Australia, is uniquely designed for areas that are prone to wildfires. Heat from the fires encourages the seed pods to pop, spread the seeds. The tree grow quickly, taking advantage of the are cleared by the fires.
Deciduous trees, like the bottle tree, drop their leaves seasonally. The leaf litter from deciduous trees can burn away quickly, often leaving mature trees still standing. Although they might be damaged by the fire, mature deciduous trees are less prone to crown fires and are more likely to leaf out again after a fire.
Furthermore, flame resistant plants take longer to catch fire and might smolder, rather than blaze. This could give fire fighters a chance to extinguish the main blaze before it is too greatly spread.
Drought Resistant Plants
One of the comments made about the 2019 bush fires is that the vegetation is very low on moisture. This, quite naturally, creates a situation where cover plants and leaf litter provide a ready tinder for lightning strikes or human-created fire sparks. Where drought conditions prevail, water for irrigation or sprinkling is often one of the first things to be curtailed.
Here is an area where the bottle tree truly shines. That beautiful bottle shape is the tree storing up moisture for the seriously dry times. Bottle trees thrive in desert conditions, preferring lightly moist to dry soils. In fact, wet earth is a health hazard for a bottle tree, since they are highly prone to root rot.
Gorgeous Shade Trees
Bottle Trees grow to be thirty-five to fifty feet tall. They have lovely creamy yellow flowers, in September when grown in Australia. These produce woody, boat shaped seed pods. The leaves of the Queensland bottle tree are narrow, and usually drop from the trees shortly before flowering. The trees are only semi-deciduous, so bottle trees might not drop all their leaves. Availability of water can have an influence on leaf retention.
They can be trimmed to encourage greater leaf density. They are beautiful trees that make lovely central figures for a lawn area or can be used to line a drive or city street.
Bottle trees can be transplanted as mature trees, making it easy to place them where desired, or remove them to a new location if there is a reason they need to be elsewhere. They can be propagated from cuttings or from seed.
Thoughts on Fire-proofing a Landscape
As previously mentioned, all vegetation will burn if exposed to sufficiently high heat. But there are ways to have a beautiful lawn and garden area while still cutting back on potential fire hazards. One method is to plant trees or lower growing plants that naturally take advantage of dry seasons. Another is to place trees and shrubs far enough from buildings that it is easy to create a firebreak of manicured or low-growing plants.
Importance of Trees
In spite of their flammability, trees are an important part of holding back climate change. Trees of all sorts, thanks to their ability to “breathe” in carbon dioxide and “breathe” out oxygen, are important to air quality. They provide shade for lower growing vegetation, and shelter, as well as food, for animals. The bottle tree was used by native Australians as a source of food and moisture during drought conditions. Its tall branches provide opportunities for nesting birds. With its low water requirements, there is a very good chance that this could be a time for bottle trees to shine as landscaping, as animal fodder, and as an all-around tree to have in these modern times.