Monday, April 8, 2013

A-Z #20 (T)

T is for TREE

I didn't have to think very hard here as I think trees are one of the most magnificent things on this earth of ours.  I doubt if there were no trees that we would continue to exist.  They are so vital to the health of the earth and its occupants.  Trees are the longest living organisms on the planet and one of the earth's greatest natural resources.  They keep our air supply clean, reduce noise pollution. improve water quality, help prevent erosion. provide food and building materials. create shade and help make our landscapes look beautiful.  I don't think I need say more about how valuable they are to us and we should all try to plant as many trees as is practical to help keep our planet healthy.

There have been various poems written about trees and I think one of the best is the one by Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918) which begins "I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree".  My brother Len had a magnificent baritone voice and I can still remember him singing this song when years ago we would all stand around the piano having a sing-song of an evening.

There is another little poem by Ogden Nash (1902-1971) that I am sure most of us would agree with:

I think that I shall never see a billboard lovely as a tree
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall, I'll never see a tree at all!

The karri tree (Eucalyptus diversicolor) grows in our southwest forests and is one of the tallest hardwoods in the world.

We used to so love driving through the karri forest on our numerous holidays down south.  Sometimes we would pull off into a designated parking spot and brew a cuppa and sit and enjoy the peace and beauty of the forest.

The Gloucester tree is a giant karri tree near Pemberton on our south coast.  It is 72 metres high and is the world's second tallest fire lookout tree (second only to the nearby dave Evans Bicentennial Tree).  Visitors can climb up to a platform in its upper branches for a spectacular view of the surrounding karri forest.

Thie fire lookout was built in 1947 and the Gloucester tree was one of 8 karri trees that between 1937 and 1952 were made relatively easy to climb so that they could be used as fire lookouts.  The suitability of the tree as a fire lookout was tested by forester Jack Watson, who climbed the tree using climbing boots and a belt.  It took him 6 hours to climb 58 metres, a difficult limb due to the 7.3 girth of the tree and the need to negotiate through limbs from 39.6 metres up.

Another forester, George Reynolds, pegged the ladder and lopped branches to facilitate climbing the tree, and a wooden lookout cabin was built 48 metres above the ground.  The Governor General of Australia, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, visited the site during construction and the tree and the national park were named in his honour.

The wooden lookout cabin was demolished in 1973 for safety reasons and was replaced with a steel and aluminium cabin and visitor's gallery.  Currently the climb is done by stepping on 153 spikes that spiral the tree.  Only 20% of visitors climb to the top of the tree. most only make it part way before turning back.

This is the lookout on the Gloucester tree which my other half and my son were climbing to reach at about 11a.m. on 14th October, 1968.  My mother, daughter and I were waiting for them on the ground when suddenly there was this deafening roar coming through the forest which we for some reason thought was torrential rain.  We called to them both to come down before they both got wet. They did but no rain eventuated.  We left Pemberton and drove to Manjimup where we noticed debris of different kinds on the footpaths.  We  decided to have lunch at the Manjimup Hotel where we were told there had been a devastating earthquake which had destroyed the town of Meckering in our wheatbelt several hundred kilometres north of Pemberton.  It was the noise of that earthquake we had heard right down near our south coast. MOH actually tripped over an uneven paving slab and sprained his write quite badly so I had to drive back to Perth.  We all remembered our morning at the Gloucester Tree quite well.  If you want to look up information about that earthquake you can do so on various websites.  MOH always joked that he fell outside the pub and he'd not even had a drink. : )


  1. Trees are one of my very favourite things too, whenever I lived in a house or unit that had a yard I would plant a tree or two.
    I think I would like to try climbing that Gloucester tree.

  2. When we bought this little cottage we live in now there was virtually no garden front or back so I proceeded to plant mainly trees and shrubs. We were both working fulltime so lots of flowers would have proven too much work for us at that time. Our front garden now looks more like a miniature park than anything else but I have no regrets as I know those trees etc. do help stop pollution and help drown out very loud noises too. There are weeping peppermints (local tree) in our back garden too one of which came up all by itself. Wasn't that clever of it?
    I wish you well if you to decide that big tree....would be quite an experience.

  3. We have also planted trees in every house we have lived in. And I haven't finished yet. Years back when I went to Perth for work I took a tour on the weekend, to what I had been told was virgin Jarrah forrest. We were nearly there when the bus driver told us it had only been milled once - sixty years ago. And I could get my hands around those sixty year old trees - hardwood does grow so very slowly. I was furious and complained about 'renewable virginity' to the tour company when we got back to Perth.

    1. Our beautiful jarrah forests were exploited badly in the early days of settlement here. Some of the roads in London were paved with jarrah blocks and in fact I think there still is jarrah under some of those roads.
      Eventually too we had jarrah dieback and people were banned from driving into the forst in case it spread. If I remember rightly it is Phytophora cinnamomi. I often had to type long screeds about jarrah dieback when I worked at the Forests Department. I loved that job as it brought me into contact with professional officers (mainly but not all men) who had such a love of trees that they went to ANU to study forestry.
      A big, big cheer for trees. Hip hip hooray!!!! That's me being silly again.

  4. Interesting about the earthquake...I guess that answers the question, if a tree falls in the forest will it make a noise eh? Trees are extremely important to our environment..there would be no oxygen without them.

  5. We need trees more than anything to keep this planet of our stable. I hate to see so many being felled to make way for agriculture but I guess those poor people in third world countries have to live too. It's not only the trees, it's the poor animals that also suffer.
    It is not really out place to tell them what to do as we ourselves have descreated so many forests for our own purpose.
    We can only try to make up for it by planting trees every opportunity we have.