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Mistletoe in a Marrickville Gum tree

Mistletoe in a Marrickville Gum tree

I discovered some Mistletoe growing in a Gum tree in Marrickville.  Not knowing much about this plant I did some research & found out that Australia has more than 90 species of Mistletoe.  I also came across some interesting information from ‘The World Today’ on ABC Radio. 

Mistletoe in Australia is always a native plant.  It has a bad reputation for killing trees, 
but Associate Professor David Watson from Charles Sturt University says, “pretty much all of the public’s perceptions about Mistletoe are fundamentally incorrect.”  Mistletoe does not kill trees, nor is it poisonous to people or livestock saying that these are myths. 

In fact, his recent research has found Mistletoe encourages biodiversity.  For 5-years he & another researcher removed all Mistletoe from some farms near Holbrook, near Albury in NSW.  The results were unexpected.

Within three years of taking mistletoe away doing nothing else just removing mistletoe plants from the canopy, we lost more than a third of the woodland dependant bird species.

 So to do one small habitat manipulation & see such a dramatic & almost immediate effect is very strong evidence & shows that not just an indirect effect, mistletoe really does have a direct positive effect on biodiversity.”


He also said that Local Councils usually have a policy of removing Mistletoe, but that this is the wrong thing to do because Mistletoe has such a positive effect on biodiversity.


“….rather than seeing Mistletoe as a problem in & of itself, it’s far better to consider it as an indicator of broader scale ecosystem health.   ….and it will come back.”  See – http://bit.ly/10NUkGf

Little birds like to nest in Mistletoe.  It also produces incredibly nutrient-rich leaf litter, which would be great to use in the garden. 

That it would be great for small birds was the first thing I thought of when I saw the Mistletoe.   All this is something to think about if you have Mistletoe growing in your tree.  It’s likely that others will tell you that you have to remove it because the myths about this plant have been around for a long time, but its presence shows that there is great biodiversity happening in your spot & that the little birds have somewhere to nest.  As evidence, there will likely be lots more birds around.  These are plenty of reasons to keep it. 

Psyllids hard at work on a Fig tree

Seems the Fig trees at Tempe Reserve are not alone being affected by psyllids.  Large numbers of Eucalypts in the Mt Druitt/St Marys region are losing their leaves after an outbreak, with an Arborist saying that a number of psyllid-affected trees in Colyton Public School need to be removed.

Blacktown Council  & the University of Western Sydney have started a 12-month research project “to learn more about psyllids & the damage they cause.”  http://bit.ly/Tt26XQ

Grey box psyllid is affecting trees in Penrith, with many trees looking like they are dying.  The psyllid infestation has traveled as far as the Blue Mountains.  http://bit.ly/mRPO0B & http://bit.ly/PV7CMK

Scotts Park in San Souci is a beautiful place with quite a number of environmental initiatives of which I will write about over a couple of posts.  It is a park full of large trees. There is open space, but unlike most of the parks in Marrickville LGA, the trees are not around the periphery, but scattered all through the park.  You get a strong sense of being away from the traffic.

About 40 metres from the road there is a massive Fig tree that would have to be 100-hundred-years-old or more.  There was a gathering of people having a picnic under its boughs while we were there.  Above in the massive boughs was a family of Little Corellas with a baby making a constant noise calling for more food.  Birds feature a lot in this park.

It was only after walking around the park that we noticed concrete in the base of the Fig tree. When I say concrete, it was around 1.5 square metres of concrete.  The middle & base of the tree had rotted.  Rockdale Council must have decided to scrape out the rot & fill in the space with concrete allowing the tree to be retained.  Apart from the rot, the tree itself is very healthy, has fruit & shows no dieback.  In the wild, this tree would have simply developed a hollow, which I am told, often has no affect on the strength of the tree & the hole itself creates homes for wildlife.

There is still some rot & I guess Rockdale Council will come again & add some more concrete.  A few years ago they planted a replacement Fig & this tree is growing quite happily beside the older Fig.   If one day the mature Fig needs to be removed, the replacement tree will be much larger so the visual aspects of the park will not be negatively affected.  I am impressed first with treating the tree & retaining it, but also having the foresight to plant a replacement tree well before the older tree needs to be chopped down, if that does happen.  Well done Rockdale Council.

Talking about Fig trees …. A Fig had to be removed from near 16 Thornley Street in Steele Park Marrickville South last year because of rot & other problems.  Marrickville Council said at the time, “It is proposed to be replaced with a Moreton Bay Fig of size 100L or greater.”  I posted about this tree removal on 5th March 2010 & a replacement Fig has not been planted at the time of posting.

I made a short YouTube video of the Fig tree in Scotts Park here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H22dVuh7gLo

This is the side without concrete.

A bracket fungus is a fruiting body that sticks out from the trunk of a tree like a shelf. They can be many colours & some look very beautiful.  Unfortunately, there is nothing you can treat a tree with once it has bracket fungus & the chances of structural failure becomes more likely as time goes by.

The Australian National Botanic Gardens website says –

“The heartwood is dead wood, with the living tissue confined to a relatively thin skin under the bark. As long as the fungus is not harming that living skin the tree can go on living quite happily. In fact, there are numerous old, healthy, hollowed-out trees in existence. Moreover, an empty cylinder (such as a hollowed trunk) can resist some stresses better than a solid cylinder (such as a solid trunk). If you’re a possum or a parrot, then you’d probably look very favourably on that fungus because it is helping to create potential  nesting hollows.”  http://www.anbg.gov.au/fungi/what-is-fungus.html

A street or park tree with this fungus can still continue to live for many years, but there is a risk that it will fall.  An Arborist said to me, “Bracket fungus usually means that there is decaying wood. Near a home or building, utility line, place where people function – it should go.” 

I found this bracket fungus a while ago. Unfortunately I didn’t photograph it before someone tried to remove it. It is about 18cms (7 inches) across & stuck out from the tree at least the same distance. It looked like a half plate wedged into the trunk. Now about 3 chunks have been snapped off exposing the inside of the fungus. The outside is hard & dry to touch. The exposed underside is slightly moist & can be dented with a fingernail.


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