Before: Photo taken July 2014.

Before:   Photo taken July 2014.

Almost finished. Looking from the opposite direction.

Almost finished. Looking from the opposite direction.

In July 2014 I wrote about the tree management at the Addison Road Centre in Marrickville. See –

In that post I mentioned the magnificent Sydney Blue gum at the entrance to the car park, which had been fenced off because it dropped a branch.  Creating an exclusion zone around this tree was very important because of the thousands of people who come to the Organic Markets, as well as all the other activities at this bustling centre.

Luck was on my side yesterday, as I had decided to visit the Centre. As soon as I drove into the property I could see major work being done to this tree.  I stopped & asked one of the Arborists whether it was being transformed into a ‘habitat tree.’   I was very pleased to hear that this was indeed what was happening.

I was told that the tree does have a disease – silly me forgot to ask the name.   He told me that tree was also serving as home to Galahs, Lorikeets & a possum & that these holes were being retained.   I have known about the Galahs living here for a couple of years, but not the other wildlife.   This is a very important tree in the area, as natural hollows really are as rare as hen’s teeth in Marrickville municipality.

I met the Manager of the Addison Road Centre who said, “We love our trees!” – words I love to hear.  It’s obvious that the Addison Road Centre do love their trees because of their recent Tree Inventory & their intention to do annual assessments & tree care.  A centre like this always has budget concerns, especially when they have such large usage from the community & have ongoing infrastructure work. More often than not, trees are the least concern, so I thought it wonderful that the Addison Road Centre spent money on their trees & are committed to their ongoing health & longevity.

The Addison Road Centre is a repository of trees, many of them significant & also some veteran trees.  The grounds are a very important sanctuary for urban wildlife & some of the species are very special.  I often just go for a walk around the grounds simply to relax, look at the trees & listen to the sound of bird song & I have met many others who do the same.

I was also fortunate to speak with Marrickville Council’s Tree Manager & Biodiversity Officer who was on-site to observe the work being done by contracted Arborists.  They told me that the tree was to have a number of microbat & bird hollows created in the limbs.  These manufactured hollows are often hard to spot from the ground because they look so natural.

Basically, a slice is taken from a branch & set aside.  Then the space under the slice is carved out with a chainsaw into the shape of a nice comfy home for a bird or animal. The inside of the hollow is grooved to create footholds & crevices, for sleeping & to allow easy & safe exit.  An exit hole is created & these look quite natural.  Then the original piece of wood that was sliced off is screwed back onto the tree & there you have it – a manmade hollow. Affordable housing for wildlife.

I was pleased to learn that all the logs created when removing the canopy of this tree will be placed in various garden beds around the Centre.   The grassed area around this tree will be transformed into a garden bed, which will further support habitat. It will also add beauty.

The concept of a habitat tree is to create what occurs naturally in trees that are generally 100-years-old or more.  Unfortunately, older trees drop limbs as part of their natural behaviour, but in urban areas, this is considered a risk to the safety of people & property.

Until recently, this generally meant that the tree was chopped down, exactly at the time when it was starting to provide the most benefit to wildlife.  This move to keep the tree & modify it to increase use by wildlife is a very good thing, especially in areas where biodiversity is struggling or tenuous.

The tree will eventually die, though it may take many years.  A dead tree provides enormous benefit to the environment & to al range of wildlife.  A range of mammals, amphibians, reptiles & invertebrates may use the tree for shelter & for foraging.  Insects, microbes, fungi, mushrooms, beetles, spiders, worms also rely on dead wood.

Logs in garden beds provide many benefits. They act as a ground cover & help prevent soil erosion. They store energy & fix nitrogen.   Their process of gradual decay returns nutrients to the soil & aids new plant growth.   They also retain moisture & offer a cool & moist place for small mammals & insects. Worms & other insects like these areas, as does fungi & mushrooms & both provide a source of food.   I personally think logs look attractive in the garden.

I applaud the Addison Road Centre for choosing this option & for Marrickville Council for working with & supporting them.   Every tree that can be retained & modified into a habitat tree is a boon for local wildlife.  The more wildlife we have, the more we benefit as a community.

Marrickville Council’s Urban Habitat Mosaic map concentrates on the edges of the municipality, particularly along the Cooks River & the rail lines. The map is pretty sparse in the middle, so the Addison Road Centre is an extremely important resource & refuge for urban wildlife.

I also think this habitat tree will serve as a great opportunity for passive education to the thousands of people who come to the Addison Road Centre every week.  Many people think of dead trees & logs as unsightly rubbish to be removed.  Learning that both are vital to the healthy functioning of our environment & increase & support biodiversity may mean more dead trees are kept, more habitat trees are created & logs to create areas of habitat are introduced into private gardens. Wouldn’t that be good.

A pair of Gallahs live in this tree.

A pair of Gallahs live in  a natural hollow in this tree.  So do Lorikeets & a possum.  Hopefully more wildlife will move in after new hollows have been made.

One of the branches

One of the branches

A closer look at the pruning

A closer look at the pruning

Last photo as I left the grounds.

Canopy removal in process