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This post is part of the Festival of the Trees, a blog carnival by tree lovers in celebration of trees & the benefits they bring. This post is about an ordinary tree with an extraordinary impact on urban wildlife.
In 1998 I decided that we should have an Alexandra Palm in our back garden. I chose this tree because we don’t have much space. Fortunately we have massive street trees in view so they give us the feeling of living amongst trees.
As is usual with everything I plant, the Palm has grown to double the size indicated on its ID tag. At one stage I worried fearing it may fall on the house in a storm. This fear went when I watched it barely move during severe winds that damaged some roofs in the area. Around this time I met a woman who hated Palm trees. “Why would anyone want a telegraph pole in their garden?” This is why.
This single tree provides food for around 10 varieties of birds that come for its twice a year supply of food. The seeds are ‘guarded’ while they are ripening for 2-3 months by many varieties of birds. In the meantime, they build nests, mate & hatch their eggs.
In winter, this palm & others in the neighbourhood provide a source of much needed food for many varieties of native birds. The Indian Mynas don’t eat from it often, the native birds come in droves. They eat in cooperation, big ones with little ones. There is rarely a fight.
At the summer fruiting the babies are brought to our tree to feed from its prolific fruit. They leave their babies in the tree for some while to forage for other types of food, knowing they will be safe hidden amongst the spray of berries or high up in the fronds. Sometimes there can be 2 different species of baby bird left in the tree. They sit quietly & look at each other. In winter these babies return as adults knowing there is a guarantee of a good meal.
The small birds nibble on the riper seeds, the large birds eat the seed whole. Then there are the fruit bats that come at night to feed. I like the whoop, whoop, whoop of their wings beating through the air before they land in the tree. Sometimes they come in too fast & crash. Then all you can hear is tiny sounds of rustling while the bats are eating & the occasional seed that drops to the ground. Then whoop, whoop as the bats take flight again.
We get a lot of delight from the visiting wildlife. The baby birds that sit for great chunks of time in the tree have long & enquiring looks at us. By the time they return as adults, they show definite recognition of us even going so far to herald their return. At times the nearby street tree is full of different species of birds checking out how their feast is cooking. As the seeds ripen, the street tree gets busier. We both think there are many more birds in our neighbourhood than there was before we planted this tree.
Many of the babies get flying lessons from the Palm to the neighbours’ roof, back & forth, back & forth until suddenly the little one takes off across the road & the parents madly chase it screaming commands. The command must be to return to the Palm tree because they always do.
I used to worry that the neighbourhood would be inadvertently populated by Palm trees, that the birds would spread the seeds, but this has not happened. For some reason most of the large birds that eat the seeds excrete the seed sans the meat around the seed within minutes of eating it. Their digestive system must burn the meat of the seed because a good majority of the seeds that have been eaten land back in our garden. By the end of the fruiting season, if we don’t remove them, there will be a couple of inches of seeds piled up like mulch around the base of the tree. They are easy to scoop up & pop into the recycling bin. A few have sprouted but their root system is not invasive & they can be plucked out with very little effort.
I guess for many people Palms would be a nuisance. Not only do you have to remove the seeds after they have dropped naturally or been excreted by the birds, but there is also the casing of the seed branch, the dried out & empty seed branch which falls twice a year & the fronds which fall as the tree is growing. The dead fronds can be quite large, but they are light to move & cut up easily with a pair of secateurs.
To us, the work this tree causes is far out-weighed by the increase of birds that have come to live nearby. We also put in a birdbath in a safe place, so the day is broken up into bath time, meal time, bath time, meal time. It’s nice for us & like a TV show for our cats who sit enthralled & fixated.
The latest addition to the neighbourhood is a Ring-tail Possum who has come to live in the street tree, within leaping distance from the Palm. He came as a baby & sat on the fence. At first we thought he was a rat until we saw his long curled tail. I have been told possums eat bananas & apples, so it stands to reason he eats Palm fruit. Clever guy has moved in next to a perpetual meal that lasts for months & happens twice a year. I no longer worry about this tree nor care about the opinions of Palm tree haters. It’s not a native tree, but I am convinced that this tree has helped much of the wildlife survive the protracted drought we are having. NOTE: I have just been told the Alexandra Palm is native to the Queensland rainforest. See comment by Bob & my reply.
In Kansas the energy supplier Westar wants to remove 12 trees from a city park. Work has been delayed while city officials take a tour to see if there is another solution. The energy company has to explain to city officials why they need to remove these mature trees. Read this article here -
I thought this article was interesting when comparing our own energy companies in Australia who, as I understand it, have carte blanche over both private & public trees if they consider them impeding electricity cables.
I remember being astounded that the stumps of large mature Elm trees, which were chopped down by Energy Australia in Salisbury Road Camperdown mid 2009, were left for Marrickville Council to remove. Not only had the community lost several mature & very beautiful trees, but we also had to pay for the stump removal as well. So, for the equivalent of a municipal council in America having the power to require the manager of Customer & Community Relations to give good reason why 12 public trees needed to be cut down is very interesting & highlights the difference in community attitudes towards public trees.
I sincerely believe that, if the Australian community & elected officials seriously challenged the way street trees are pruned for cables, our power companies would make changes. Power is no longer a monopoly & they are hungry for our business. I know because energy providers knock on our front door several times a year to try to lock us into a contact with them.
Staying with energy providers, Tucson Electric Power in Tucson Arizona USA are offering their customers up to 4 shade trees for US$8 to help lower their energy use costs. Recipients of the trees are given instructions as to where on their property they should plant the trees to best help save energy. Some of the saplings are 160 cm tall. People whose homes were built 1980 & later are allowed 2 trees while houses built earlier can get 4 trees. That’s US$2 per tree & if it were offered for the Inner West, it would mean 4 trees for most of us. Tucson Electric Power has understood the value of trees because they started this program in 1993 (wow) & have distributed 50,000 trees to date. It is something I think our energy providers could do well to copy & would go along way to improving their image. To read the article click on the following – http://www.kold.com/Global/story.asp?S=11841260
In San Francisco USA a group called Friends of the Urban Forest have set up a program where for US$75 you can have tree planted wherever you want on the footpath provided there are no utilities underneath which would be adversely affected by digging. I don’t know whether Friends of the Urban Forest is a community group, part of council or a partnership between both. Regardless, what a wonderful program. The right trees get planted in the right places & all the support & education needed is provided & the community has a say. As far as I can gather, in America generally the saplings they plant are 1.8 to 3 metres tall & quite established.
Imagine if a person like myself had a million dollars to spare. I could go crazy pointing to all the barren, cemented places along our streets & by the time I run out of money 13,333 trees would have been added to our LGA with US$25 left over to spend on whatever. It’s a pleasant dream. To read about this wonderful program, click on the following link – http://mergy.org/2010/01/09/simple-summary-of-getting-a-tree-with-fuf/
I’ll start this post with a clarification concerning the last post Cambridge Street tree axed today. I realised over breakfast this morning that I had generalised when I said, “Once again, regarding the Cambridge Street tree, the Greens voted to keep the tree. Once again, the vote to remove the tree comes from the other counselors.” In fact, with regards to the Cambridge Street tree, Independent Councillor Morris Hanna did not vote, as he was not in attendance at that particular meeting. My apologies to Councillor Hanna.
I have decided to do another post on tree news from around the world. I am assuming you will find it as interesting as I do & it gives us comparisons in which to measure our own Marrickville Council in regards to trees.
I received interest from the UK regarding the last post, where I mentioned that some Australian municipal councils erect billboards in place of trees that have been deliberately vandalised to get better access to a scenic view. Perhaps UK councils are considering using billboards to act as a deterrent to the recent rampant vandalism of trees in their country.
Caitlin from Save Our Figs in Newcastle found the following for me which, though old news, made me roar with laughter. In 1998 Port Stephens Council on the mid-north coast of NSW placed 2 shipping containers on top of each other on a cliff in place of 20 trees that were illegally cut down to gain access to better views of picturesque Boat Harbour. Post Stephens Council also planted saplings to replace the trees & intended to keep the shipping containers in place for 3 years until the saplings reached a decent size. Unsurprisingly, the locals were not amused.
To read the full story complete with photo that I wish I could use, click on the following link. http://www.news.com.au/national/council-blocks-suspected-tree-loppers-view/story-e6frfkwi-1111115863763
News more recent & local: the Cumberland Courier newspaper reported that Hills Shire Council & Castle Hill police are investigating the death of numerous trees on a property in Boundary Road, Box Hill. A grove of 40 year old Gums have died, yet the trees on properties either side are lush & green. The police are involved because they believe the trees were poisoned. It wouldn’t be the first time bush properties have been used for the dumping of chemicals. Causing deliberate harm to trees is called Malicious Damage in police speak & can incur hefty penalties including gaol time if severe enough. You can read the full story here - http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/what-s-killing-box-hill-s-trees/
In Seattle USA, a dozen 50 year old Fir trees both on private & public land were chopped down in the middle of the night to make way for better views. Seattle doesn’t require a permit to chop down trees on private land unless on slopes or along the shore. It calls itself the Emerald City, yet Seattle’s percentage of tree canopy has dropped from 40% in 1972 to 18% currently.
Seattle is trying to regreen the city to the first target of 30% cover. In 1999 the budget for Parks & Recreation was US$250,000. In 2010 it is US750,000 rising to US$1.2 million in 2011. This is serious tree planting money & I would be interested to learn of Marrickville Council’s budget for tree planting. Perhaps it would be fairer to compare the budget for City of Sydney Council instead.
The same article reminds readers of when a senior Seattle Judge was fined US$500,000 after he was found guilty of illegally chopping down 120 trees in a public park below his house. The trees obscured his view of Lake Washington. Can you imagine chopping down 120 trees in the middle of the night? He must have been strong & fit as none of the men I know would be up to this job. No words of his position as a Senior Judge & bastion of society.
The article has other news including links & is well worth reading. You can read it at the following link - http://www.seattlepi.com/local/320177_trees18.html
Tree news is a fairly recent phenomenon. It used to be that only the most profound or shocking tree news was reported, but in recent months a great deal of tree related news is being written in the papers & on the internet. This post is again too long so I will post the second part of recent news soon.
I was invited by Marrickville Greens to go to watch the magnificent Lemon Scented Gum street tree in Cambridge Street Stanmore being chopped down by Marrickville Council. For various reasons I declined, but I know I did not want this image imprinted on my memory. I have come to love this tree & I am distressed about its loss. To me, it was no ordinary street tree.
Marrickville LGA has some gorgeous trees, mostly in parks, though there are also good ones that are street trees. However, we have thousands of butchered, stumpy & not good-looking street trees all over the LGA & it is noticeable if you look.
I think many of us have become desensitised to the ugliness of our street trees because their disintegration happens over time & we just get used to seeing them in this poor condition. Leave the LGA & you immediately notice the differences.
The Lemon Scented Gum in Cambridge Street Stanmore was one of the better-looking street trees in the whole LGA & this is not an exaggeration. Do I think this because I like Gums? Yes & no. I do like Gum trees, but I also like most other trees. I am an all-round tree lover though I admit to preferring tall stature trees & especially trees which flower & provide food for insects, birds & animals.
I think it is necessary in an urban environment to think about wildlife when choosing trees to plant. I also think we have a duty to provide food for these creatures who are losing more & more food resources every year. If you don’t believe me, put out a birdbath in a safe place in your garden & watch how long it takes for birds to arrive. They are short of water as well. When we built a fishpond, the rare frogs of the area arrived within 2 days & there wasn’t other ponds around. Where did they come from, we wondered. If you plant flowering trees & shrubs that feed birds, they will come in droves & the air will be filled with birdcalls.
So for a tree of this magnitude to be cut down seems ridiculous to me. The tree provided refuge for both wildlife & humans because it was a flowering native tree & its canopy significantly cooled the air in the street. This is not a feeling I am used to when I walk the streets of my local area. Mostly I cannot walk during the day because the streets are so hot with the heat reflected by the road & concrete. I believe that as temperatures rise due to global warming, the heat island effect is going to get worse & we are going to bake. City of Sydney Council recognises this & intends to plant 10,000 more trees in the CBD this year to counteract the heat.
I am aware the residents who wanted the tree removed said it was causing cracking to their house & Council felt hamstrung because of the potential of litigation. However, because we do not have a Significant Tree Register, our public trees are vulnerable. Cracking to houses can always be repaired & it is something we should expect when we live in 100 year old houses, which are built on clay soils & with poor quality mortar. In fact, even renovated houses in the Inner West need regular work as they are always deteriorating. It comes with the territory. That’s why many people prefer to live in modern units or project homes that are built on cement slabs. As a norm, tree roots are not strong enough to lift a concrete slab.
When we respect trees & fully appreciate their positive impact on our lives & vital role in our civilization’s existence, if atmospheric levels of CO2 continue to rise as expected, then we will do everything we can to keep our mature trees that sequester large amounts of CO2.
The removal of this tree affects the whole community, not just the residents of Cambridge Street. First is it one tree, then another tree & so on. Before we know it, the whole streetscape is changed & not for the better. It took 40 years for that tree to grow a 2.5 metre girth & it had at least another 60 years of life left in it. Eucalypts often live 100 years or more. All it took was 4 ½ hours for it to be gone.
The Marrickville Greens tried to get a stay of execution to try other methods to repair the cracking & fix the problem at ground level. The Labor & Independent Councillors had to power to grant this so that amelioration could be tried to give the tree a chance to be saved. I would have conceded defeat if all avenues had been tried & agreed the tree needed be removed, but these avenues weren’t given a chance. I am sure the Greens feel the same as I do. This tree was also worth a lot of money to the community & especially to Cambridge Street. Better to sell a house before a tree is cut down than after.
Our tree assets get voted out because of concrete, their particular species, because they are old, because, because, because. I have not yet seen tree saving strategies voted in during council meetings, only the opposite. Trees are seen as a nuisance & a liability. The reality is: not having trees is a liability.
I will work with Labor & the Independents as well as the Greens if they are pro-trees & the greening of Marrickville LGA. However, since I have started, I have noticed that support for my vision comes from the Greens & not from Labor or the Independents. To be fair, Labor did reverse their decision over the Mackey Park Figs, but not until after a community protest of 300 people & an even larger petition.
Once again, regarding the Cambridge Street tree, the Greens voted to keep the tree. Once again, the vote to remove the tree comes from the other counsellors. Is it a pattern? Saving Our Trees hasn’t been alive long enough to be able to answer this question.
Frankly I was shocked when I read on the Greens website that: Independent Councillor Dimitrios Thanos recently emailed Councillors & staff saying: “I’ll grab my chainsaw & meet the staff down there on the appointed day.” I just know he & I are not on the same page when it comes to trees.
Getting back to my intro, I didn’t want to go & watch the ‘Elle McPherson of trees’ be chopped down, but the Marrickville Greens did witness this. You can read their posts about this tree -http://marrickvillegreens.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/risk-averse-council-condemns-stanmore’s-biggest-eucalypt-to-the-chainsaw/ & you can also view 2 photos taken today by the Greens at – http://yfrog.com/37y6 & http://yfrog.com/1ehcezj &
Last week the Cumberland Courier reported that a Pymble solicitor who illegally removed a Jacaranda tree from his property was fined a total of $18,075 after being taken to court by Ku-ring-gai Council. This action by Ku-ring-gai Council shows commitment to taking action to protect trees in an area renown for its significant green canopy & many large, tall trees.
The level of punishment ordered by the court will send a strong signal to those who are prepared to act against the community’s expectations that trees be protected. I expect the people of Ku-ring-gai Council LGA will be extremely reticent to chop down trees without council permission from now on. You can read the article by clicking on the following link – http://bit.ly/8FanNm
In the Dorset resort of Poole in the UK a row of mature Monterey pines, Cedars & Oaks protected by Tree Preservation Orders have been killed off by residents using hatchets, handsaws, drain cleaner & rock salt all for the sake of a sea view. This news has traveled the internet like a virus which has surprised me. They call it ‘tree-mugging.’ Council intends to deliver hefty fines (20,000 pounds) & possibly gaol time if they catch the perpetrators. They must not have heard of the councils in Australia who erect large billboards saying “this billboard has been put here because of tree vandalism & will remain until the replacement tree has fully matured.” I know that I would rather see a view through a leafy canopy than look at a billboard.
The Cumberland Courier ran an article about another group of residents who complained about the street tree pruning by Energy Australia in Kens Road, Frenches Forest. The residents say the energy company has left the street trees ugly & looking like telegraph poles. To read this article, click on the link just above this paragraph.
The council of the city of Milpitas USA took a creative approach to increasing their tree canopy. Residents came home to find a letter speared into their front lawn with wire informing them that a tree was to be planted by the council in their front garden. In one street, about 3/4s of the homes were targeted. If residents didn’t want a tree planted, they were required to send a written appeal within 14 days.
Can you imagine the uproar if our Marrickville Council tried this? Maybe a modified approach of offering free trees to residents to plant in their gardens would be successful. It would have to be part of a concentrated campaign to green the LGA because council were offering a free plant from the Addison Road nursery late 09 to anyone who presented a coupon available in the free newspaper Marrickville Matters. It would be interesting to know how many residents took up this offer. http://www.mercurynews.com/milpitas/ci_14181479
Peter Spenser of Shannon’s Flat NSW has come down from his tower & stopped his hunger strike after 52 days protesting the State Government’s refusal to allow him to clear his land of trees. He wants a Royal Commission, compensation & “a Chardonnay.”
Richard Pennicuik who I have posted about on 10th December 09 & 5th January 10 is still sitting in the street tree outside his home in Perth suburb of Thornlie. The City of Gosnell Council must be pulling their hair out by now. What to do? Keep the healthy street trees in this street or continue to suffer the now world-wide bad publicity?
Finally, a study in Landscape & Urban Planning by Geoffrey Donavan of the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station found that if a house in East Portland had street trees & tree canopy close by, the house sold for US$8,870 more & it sold faster. He said his research had some public policy implications in that, “Calculating the increased property tax revenue to the city & comparing it to the expense the city bears maintaining street trees, the authors estimate street trees have a benefit to cost ratio of 2 to 1. In Portland, the benefits of street trees significantly outweigh their maintenance costs.”
I did a google search & found a house for sale in East Portland – 3 beds, 1 bath, 475 sq metre with multiple tall trees at US$234,000. Can you believe these prices!
This is part of a current world trend that recognizes that good street trees increase property values. Interesting if you consider the impact of severe pruning by energy companies.
There is quite a bit of tree/nature news happening now. The Inner West Courier reported that 3 residents of High Street Strathfield set up camp on the nature strip to peacefully protest Strathfield Council’s order for the nature strip to be destroyed for a temporary pedestrian crossing. The residents’ protest was successful in that the work has been postponed. You can read the article by clicking on the following link – http://inner-west-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/residents-protest-saves-path/
The Cumberland Courier wrote an article this week saying Baulkham Hills residents are furious at Integral Energy for the way their contractors pruned street trees recently.
The local politician, Castle Hill State Liberal MP Michael Richardson has taken a stand calling on the State Government to step in to stop the “butchering.” Reading this made me hoot with joy. Finally, a politician has stepped up & challenged the ‘never to be questioned’ power of these companies.
Intergal Energy’s letter in reply to Mr Richardson said “While trimming can look severe at first, trees regrow at a normal rate & training them away from power-lines avoids the need to remove them entirely in the future.” I dispute this having witnessed energy Australia contractors pruning the thin hanging branches of Bottlebrush trees closer to the ground than the wires. It was entirely unnecessary.
In my opinion they ruined the street trees in my area in 2000 & came & did a much harder prune late 2009. Many of the trees are hardly worth keeping after this last visit. Marrickville Council knows this because they have removed a whole street of trees after they have been pruned for power-lines. It’s a vicious cycle & one I would like to see stopped. See the Shame Page 1 & 2 on this site for examples.
For the record, I know that trees need to be pruned to prevent blackouts/fire caused by damage to the cables by branches moving in the wind during storms. However, I strongly believe the energy companies can do much better with their pruning & I am not alone in this.
They can also make AB Cabling cheaper so the councils can afford to use it. In the long run, it will save significant amounts of money for the energy companies who must pay out millions each year to pay contractors to prune street trees.
You can read the full article by clicking on the following link – http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/residents-fury-at-tree-butchering-in-hills/
In America they are having a similar argument about their energy supplier ComEd’s treatment of street & public trees. It is of such concern to the community that ways to manage the problem is the subject of debate in a public forum between 4 State Senators who are candidates for the DuPage County Board Chairman’s seat, a necessary step before going to State Primary elections. Serious stuff. All 4 senators want state legislation to bring in measures of control.
“The current state statute is insufficient to deal with this perpetual problem,” Olson (one of the State Senators) said. “I have joined the chairman of the (county board’s) environmental committee in proposing & supporting legislation that would require ComEd to replace high-growing trees they cut down or disfigure under their transmission lines with lower-growing native species.”
Senator Cronin said, “Utilities are subject to specific tree-care standards & the county must ensure that ComEd is meeting those expectations.”
Senator Pankau wants to initiate a program requiring contractors to undergo certified training by the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, which I guess is the equivalent of our Botanical gardens.
I find it astounding that American’s love their public trees so much, they become a voting issue & politicians have to stand up for what they believe about trees in a public forum & that sufficient numbers of people will attend.
You can read the full article at the following link – http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=349705
There is much more tree news. To keep this post to a decent size I will post the rest soon.
The Cambridge Street Stanmore Lemon Scented Gum tree is going to be chopped down soon. I feel very sad about this. During the Council meeting to decide the fate of this tree, the people who wanted this tree removed spoke about a large branch that fell on the street needing 2 people to carry it away. The danger the tree posed from falling branches would have been one of the major factors why their request was granted.
Gums trees do drop dead branches as a normal feature of their species. Unfortunately, I think this is the reason why Marrickville Council appears not to not regard Eucalypts favourably. Then include the fact that they grow tall & have a significant canopy. In comparison to the usual street trees Council plants, Eucalypts are an anomaly. I would guess the Gums are left over from the 1970s & before.
Suburbs like Petersham which have a lot of Eucalypts as street trees look fabulous as a result. Everyone I have spoken to in this area always mentions the trees, most saying they were a major reason why they chose to buy in Petersham. However, the Cambridge Street issue is likely to repeat itself for two reasons unless these are managed.
Firstly, building movement that causes cracking. The Inner West is mostly clay soils & when there is drought (we have had a long one which is still continuing) the clay soils shrink. This results in movement of buildings & cracks to the walls, porches & paths, especially as most of the housing is 100 years old & the mortar used then was of very poor quality.
Roots of mature trees would have stopped growing years, perhaps decades ago. Often the tree has nothing to do with movement. Arborists constantly have differing opinions about the impact of tree roots on house foundations. Personally, I think it is too easy to blame the tree.
Even buildings that do not have a street tree out front can suffer from movement & cracking, especially during drought. If your property is built on clay soil, removing most or all the trees on or around your property is unlikely to prevent further house movement. It is a fact of life in the Inner West.
To minimize cracking to your house during drought, you need to water thoroughly along the exterior walls on a regular basis. If you keep the soil moist, the clay will not shrink & your foundations are less likely to move. Many people have concreted their yards, so they will definitely have house movement & cracking, drought or no drought. If you already have cracking, you can assist by watering around the building to get the moisture back into the soil. Our front door, which had started sticking, returned to normal 2 months after I recommenced watering our front garden. I have written more fully about clay soils in the following post –
Managing dry clay soils does take time & patience.
Secondly, Eucalypts develop dead branches, which they shed as a normal feature of their development. This does not make the species dangerous. The process of the branch dying off until it eventually drops is not a quick one. I have been watching trees with dead branches for 12 months now. (It’s been one of my ‘must do posts’ which hasn’t happened until now.) However, Gums are called ‘widow makers’ for a reason. A falling branch can kill a person if they drop on their head, but then again, so can most things that drop from a height. I was young when I first heard the term ‘widow maker’ & I remember being told the following with much laughter:
The tree branch is dying over many months, sometimes years. The wife asks the husband to do something about it. Time moves on. She nags & nags, but he watches footy & says he will prune the branch later. Then, one day when he is mowing or something, the dirty big branch falls on his head & the wife is left a widow. The moral of the story is that men should do what their wife asks when she asks it to be done, husbands are lazy & her nagging is warranted.
Maybe you had to be there & times have changed. The story made a big impact on me because ever since I have a keen eye to notice these branches.
Whether or not Council should be responsible for checking trees for dying branches is not something I have an opinion about. However, I do think we see the street trees in our neighbourhood almost daily & if we notice a tree branch is dying, a quick call or e-mail to Council should have the branch pruned before it becomes a problem & drops.
If we leave it until the branch drops, Council is likely to say the tree is dangerous & needs to be removed. Then the community suffers another loss of a tree & eventually we lose all remaining Eucalypts & other tall trees. Our suburbs suffer as a result because we lose the beauty that tall trees offer. We also lose out on property values because great street trees have a surprising positive impact on local property values.
The street trees near our homes, especially the large ones, remove pollution & particulate matter which causes breathing problems. They collect CO2 & emit oxygen making the air cleaner & cooler. They lower temperature which helps lower our power bills, they slow down traffic, make the footpaths safer for pedestrians & generally make people feel happier. I have written more about the value of trees in the page 100 Tree Facts, which can be located on the left hand column of this site near the top.
Lastly, if Sydney’s North Shore can have hundreds of thousands of Eucalypts as street trees, why can’t Marrickville LGA? Let’s look after & keep the ones we have left. They are necessary for our wildlife.
We went to Berowra Waters today, which required driving up the Pacific Highway. The last time I did this I wrote about the street trees. This time I wanted to see specifically what the differences were between the Pacific Highway & the sections of Princes Highway & Parramatta Road in Marrickville LGA.
There were a number of noteworthy differences. The Pacific Highway has thousands of street trees along its length. A significant number of these trees are Eucalypts. They cascade over the highway, many having branches which cross over 3 lanes & sometimes as far as the opposite side of the highway.
Bottle Brushes are not the dominant street tree, with most trees being of a taller growing species. Many of the street trees are 1/3 higher than the power poles & thick trunks are quite common.
Far less than 50% of the trees have trunks that are as thin as an upper arm. Many street trees were planted around 3 metres apart, which helped create a decent canopy. Most of the trees have a natural shape & I did not see a single tree in a cage even within the shopping strips
The street trees planted in shopping strips spilled out from under the awnings & loomed over the highway. Naturally to achieve this they did not have straight trunks & they have not removed because of this.
Much of the Pacific Highway has a grass verge with a narrow footpath. Only the shopping strips are paved or cemented. The grass verge serves to soften the environment, which is quite an achievement considering the Pacific Highway is one of the top 10 heavily trafficked roads in Australia. I watched the verge of the Highway for its length wondering how they were managing with far less cement. I noticed the footpaths were narrower than in the Inner West & many trees hung over the path requiring any pedestrians to either duck or weave their way around the tree. I actually saw this happen & it appeared to cause no difficulty for the pedestrian who was a woman over 50. So very different from here, where just last week a council worker took to our fence with a whipper-snipper to hack away 20 centimetres of errant camellia which protruded out from under the fence. Considering the footpath outside our fence is a wide one for the area, I thought this was overkill.
So do we sanitise & control nature more than they do on Sydney’s North Shore? I think we do.
In direct opposition is our section of the Princes Highway & Parramatta Road, both of which are an eye-sore in my opinion. The Princes Highway cannot possibly get uglier & being so close to the airport, it is one of the gateways to Sydney. The roads directly surrounding the airport were heavily planted with street trees, shrubs & flowers for the 2000 Olympics. In the main, they still look good & are maintained by Botany Council. I doubt once the visitor leaves these roads & comes to the Princes Highway that they will have a favourable impression of the area. The Princes Highway is in the main a worship of cement. Soot stained, dirty cement. One can count the street trees & they are a sad, straggly lot. There is a gross lack of green infrastructure. This changes when the Princes Highway comes under the jurisdiction of City of Sydney Council at one end & Rockdale Council at the other. For a green council, Marrickville seems to be ignoring this stretch of highway.
The same can be said for Parramatta Road, which is stark in its lack of green infrastructure, though it is slightly less ugly than the Princes Highway because of the type of grey infrastructure (some may debate this). Again, Leichhardt Council & City of Sydney Council have planted threes where Parramatta Road comes under their control, though City of Sydney Council has done far more work & planted many more street trees. If City of Sydney, Rockdale & Leichhardt Councils can plant street trees along these main roads, why can’t Marrickville Council?
Why do we need so much cement? Trees help the longevity of grey infrastructure like cement footpaths because their shade protects from the harsh sun. We also know that roofs, roads & footpaths cause the heat island effect & trees lower this. Temperatures can be 9 degrees cooler in the shade of a tree.
The North Shore is deemed classier. I think this is not because of the housing stock, but because of the plentiful tall trees & the significant green canopy. Friends have told me they moved to the North Shore because of the trees. Balmain & Paddington were built as working class suburbs as were those in Marrickville LGA, yet both these suburbs are regarded as better suburbs & their properties are generally worth more. Why? Is it the presence of water? Being close to the city? Perhaps, but Marrickville LGA is also close to the city & has its own beautiful Cooks River.
I think it is because of the trees. On the drive back from Hornsby, the closer you get to Marrickville the more you notice the trees thin out, get shorter, look less healthy & street tree after street tree have been severely hacked. The trees on the North Shore aren’t hacked in this way.
There is a 3 sided block surrounded by large mature Hills Figs in Marrickville South. One Fig trees is situated on Warren Road, the others along Renwick Street & Carrington Road. I think there are around 13 Fig trees in total. These trees would be eligible to be included in a Significant Tree Register, if we had one. They are a landmark in the area. Combined with the row of Palms probably planted in the same era (around 80-90 years ago) when the factories along Carrington Road were built, these trees make Carrington Road look far nicer than it would without them.
Two industries used the land for decades, cohabiting comfortably with the trees with large trucks driving in & out. Unfortunately over the last 15 years the trees have suffered much trauma from severe pruning for the sake of electricity wires. Energy Australia deny pruning these trees & say they were pruned for a loading zone. However, there is a great big long hole through the canopy where the wires travel. (see Energy Australia letters)
A DA for the block of land was taken to the Land & Environment Court back in 2008 for a number of reasons, one of which was the proposed removal of 2 of these Fig trees to make way for entrance driveways. On this issue, Marrickville Council & the community were successful in having the application refused.
Thanks to the Court ruling, these beautiful trees got to live on, with the next threat to their existence being the actual development of the site, which may or may not affect their root system.
Two months ago, a truck crashed into one of the trees leaving multiple deep gashes in its trunk & causing the loss of one major branch. A month ago a truck tore off half a tree. Council had to cut what remained back to the trunk leaving a Fig tree with one branch. How long before they say this tree is unstable, looks ugly & has to be removed?
Yesterday, I drove by & saw another major branch of one of these trees lying in the gutter. I can safely assume a truck it ripped off because the area of damage is high off the road. Council has cut this branch into 3 to make it easier to take away. I assume they will also have to do work on the tree where the branch was sheared off.
I feel aghast at what is happening to these trees. There are many trucks that use these streets & their presence is causing a lot of damage. I am sure this is a common story in other areas of Marrickville LGA.
It is nothing less than vandalism & truck drivers should be required to take more care of street trees & other infrastructure if they are to use these streets.
I blame also the businesses that require the drivers to use extremely large trucks to cut down on the amount of deliveries as a way of increasing profit margin. While they make money, they are destroying the area.
If a truck has to drive over a footpath to take a corner, it is too big to be using these narrow streets. If the driver sees a tree canopy overhead, they can take measures to ensure they do not take branches with them. Council certainly makes sure that the branches of our street trees are high off the ground. I suspect it wasn’t a passing truck which caused this latest damage. Many trucks use this area to park overnight. Seems trying to park a high truck near the kerb brought the vehicle within reach of the canopy and brought the branch down.
It also needs to be said that Carrington Road is a very wide road, certainly big enough for trucks to use & the tree canopy does not restrict passage.
Other news – on 10th December 09 I wrote about a Perth man who was sitting in a street tree to prevent its removal. (see post This is Commitment) Well, he is still there.
His name is Richard Pennicuik & he lives in the Perth suburb of Thornlie. He is protesting the proposed removal of 2 mature native street trees outside his property by the City of Gosnell Council. Apparently, the Council has chopped down 20 other mature street trees in his street & plans to remove the remaining trees. Richard Pennicuik is refusing to come down from the tree until Council reverse their decision to remove these street trees.
Gosnell Council wrote to Mr Pennicuik saying they would not remove the trees for 3 months if he would come down from the tree & discuss the issue with them. They have also said they will plant native tree species instead of their original intention to plant exotics. He says this is insufficient & will not be coming down. He believes the Council will remove the trees if he does.
Imagine spending 4 weeks up a tree & having so much commitment & love for trees to be willing to stay as long as necessary to save these trees. Many of the comments on the net have been very derogatory towards Mr Pennicuik, but most of these comments have come from people who also chose to write less than positive comments about trees. I respect Mr Pennicuik & wish him success. He believes that the earth needs all its mature trees because of global warming & says he is also protesting for his children’s future.