Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

2024 Landcare Link-up: Caring for Significant Old Trees

Posted on 19 June, 2024 by Hadley Cole

As part of Connecting Country’s ongoing support for Landcare groups in the Mount Alexander region, we coordinate an annual Landcare Link-up to provide groups with an opportunity to get together, learn, share and connect. It’s also a great opportunity for anyone not yet a part of Landcare to learn more about what’s involved and hear about the amazing success stories in our region.

On Sunday 19 May 2024, Landcare volunteers and significant old tree enthusiasts attended the Annual 2024 Landcare Link-up in Maldon VIC. The event was co-hosted by Maldon Urban Landcare Group (MULGA). Bev Phillips from MULGA provided enormous support in coordinating the event as well as taking participants for a walk around the Maldon township to view significant indigenous eucalypts of the area that have been growing since before European settlement, which in Maldon was 1852.

Bev’s walk was most engaging with participants forming a greater understanding of how many of our indigenous eucalypts may not appear enormously wide in trunk size, however, their canopy can tell us a different story. Medium-sized indigenous eucalypts can pre-date European settlement and be 200 or more years in age. MULGA have been recording indigenous eucalypts that are estimated to pre-date European settlement since 2017. The group has surveyed 340 trees on public and private land. Five of the eucalypts are estimated to be over 500 years old, and one of these, a Grey Box, is estimated to be 650 years old. Many large eucalypts were destroyed during the gold rush era in the Mount Alexander Shire, which leaves those still standing as ‘Living Treasures’, as they were lucky to escape obliteration.

Participants admiring a beautiful Yellow Box (Eucalyptus Melliodora) estimated to be 540 years old. Photo by Connecting Country.

As well as talking us through how to estimate the age of significant trees, Bev shared some great tips on how to identify Indigenous eucalypts of the region, including Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa), Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora), Long Leaf Box (Eucalyptus goniocalyx) and Red Box (Eucalyptus polyanthemos). Bev brought along sample bags and photocopies of species leaves and fruit (or gum nuts) which provided wonderful resources for explaining the various parts of the tree used for identification. Participants thoroughly enjoyed the walk with Bev through Maldon, with many gaining further knowledge in the identification of indigenous eucalypts.

The photos above show participants getting hands-on experience in identifying eucalypts by examining leaves and fruit.

Following the walk and talk with Bev, we returned to the Maldon Community Centre to warm up with afternoon tea and settle in for presentations from Connecting Country’s Ivan Carter, Engagement Coordinator, who spoke about the mapping of large and/or significant old trees in the region and from La Trobe University’s Dr Steve Griffiths who gave us an overview of his research into artificial or carved tree hollows.

Ivan spoke about Connecting Country’s mapping portal that allows our local community to upload and record significant or special trees on public or private land across the region. The mapping portal is part of Connecting Country’s three-year project, Regenerate before it’s too late! funded by the Ian and Shirley Norman Foundation. As well as mapping the spectacular trees of our region, the project also includes on-ground works and community engagement events to help raise the profile of our marvellous significant old trees. The 2024 Landcare Link-up was one of these events. For more information on how to upload images and record details of local old trees of the region to the mapping portal – click here.

Participants enjoyed the presentation by Dr Steve Griffiths on artificial tree hollows. Photo by Connecting Country.

We then heard from Dr Steve Griffiths, who offered some fascinating information about his research on artificial or carved tree hollows. Steve explained that carved hollows are not a new concept and have been used overseas in places such as North America and Europe since the 1990’s but little has been recorded about their effectiveness. Creation of these hollows involves carving out hollows with a chainsaw, or specialised tools, to specific dimensions depending on the species you wish to create a home for. One of Steve’s studies looked into the insulative quality of carved hollows versus nest boxes. As the carved hollows have the benefits of the insulation mass of the tree, they performed better than nest boxes in both cool and hot weather.

Steve presented some interesting research into the dimensions of the carved hollows and the species using them. Overall studies indicated that small arboreal mammals such as Brush-Tailed Phascogales and Krefft (or Sugar) Gliders will comfortably take up residence in a carved hollow. Native birds, such as a variety of parrots secies, will also set up homes in these hollows. Microbats however were not found in the carved hollows, so the question remains how a comfy insulated hollow is created for these little guys, which Steve seems committed to finding out!

To read Dr Steve Griffiths’s full research paper, click here.

Although it was a jam-packed day, it was a great success with lots of positive feedback provided by participants.

The canopy of a 540-year-old Yellow Box (Eucalyptus Melliodora). Photo by Connecting Country.

A big thank you to Bev Phillips and Marie Bell from MULGA for their help coordinating the day and volunteering their time and Dr. Steve Griffiths for travelling up to Maldon to share his learnings.

This event was funded through the Regenerate before it’s too late! project supported by the Ian & Shirley Normal Foundation.



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