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I have decided to add another topic to this blog – ‘Postcard from elsewhere.’

Often enough people tell me about a street or park tree or something similar either in Australia or overseas that they think would interest me.  Sometimes I’ve been lucky enough to be shown a photo.  I thought it would be nice to have a section where a photo or two of really unusual trees or localities could be posted here.  If information can be found out about the tree or location, I will write about it, kind of like the recent post on The Roof Gardens in London.

Verge gardens, green roofs, green walls & any other urban environmental initiative interests me.  There is a lot happening out there that challenges the local paradigm & your photo may inspire others, including Marrickville Council to do something similar.

So if you find yourself on the streets of Paris looking at an old street tree that has a branch being held up by a pole, in the Sahara Desert beside the only tree for hundreds of kilometers or in Kakadu looking at a truly amazing tree & you think you would like to share here, email me a photo with some brief information.  You also need to tell me whether you want me to credit you as the photographer or if you want to remain anonymous.

I’ll start Postcard from Elsewhere off with a photo of a gorgeous old tree in Brisbane’s Old Botanical Gardens taken by Bob Corbett who said, Some city councils like to chop down trees, others like to support them… Just saying.”

Brisbane City Council has protected a very long branch by supporting it with two purpose-made structures & surrounding it with a non-intrusive fence.  It proves that branches from old trees do not need to be removed.  It’s entirely a matter of choice by the Council.  Brisbane City Council did something fabulous here & with a side-growing branch no less.

This is not only great for the tree, but it also teaches people in a subtle way about the value of trees & to care for & respect them. Photo by Bob Corbett with thanks.

Agenda item Number 5 for next week’s Marrickville Council Meeting 6th December 2011 recommends –

1.   “Council undertake to remove & replace the 24 Norfolk Island Hibiscus Street trees in Harrow Road Stanmore (My count is 27 trees)

2.   the removal & replacements be phased to occur in 2 stages approximately 5 years apart,

3.   the first stage of removals comprise the 11 trees located between numbers 2-30 Harrow Road,

4.   the second stage of removals comprise the 13 trees located between numbers 40-64 Harrow Road, &

5.   the replacement trees be comprised of a single appropriate deciduous species so as to afford winter solar access & summer shade benefits to south west facing dwellings.”

“The approximate cost of required works is as follows –

  • Removal –

–       Phase 1: $9,000

–        Phase 2: $13,000 (including escalation)

  • Replacement (contract planting of 100L size trees with 12 weeks maintenance period) –

–       Phase 1: $28,000

–       Phase 2: $39,000 (including escalation)”

  • TOTAL:  $89,000

A petition of 27 residents has been sent to Marrickville Council asking that the street trees be removed.  Council states that they have received a total of 11 complaints about the street trees from Harrow Street residents since 1999.  In brief –

–        7 of these were about ‘seasonal infestation’ by Cotton Harlequin Bugs with 1 resident also writing about Rosella nests & possible bird lice.

–        2 were about flower litter with 1 resident adding that the seedpods produce ‘glass-like’ hairs causing skin irritations & get stuck in their feet.

–        2 households complained in February 2011 about the ‘glass-like’ hairs getting stuck in their feet & causing skin irritations to their children, babies, pets, fruit litter & possible damage to their property by roots of the trees. See report for more details – Item 5: 6th December 2011 –

The 11 residents who wrote to Council have legitimate complaints, but what a nightmare.  The community will lose 24 (or 27?) street trees, an average of 8-metres tall.  Apart from the issue of climate change & tree loss, urban wildlife will be the biggest losers. These trees are habitat for Cotton Harlequin Bugs, a harmless jewel-like bug with many different patterns. They are well known for their maternal care as they guard the eggs & nymphs until they are old enough to fend for themselves & fly off to live out their lives.  Even though they feed by sucking the sap of the tree, they do not harm the tree. For great photos & more information see –

This street tree in Harrow Road was unique for having so many Cotton Harlequin Bugs on its trunk. Not all the street trees had visible bug families & some had one or two small clusters of bugs sitting on the trunk. This tree was one of the 3 trees that had bead branches at the base or on the trunk.

Many bird species are all through these trees, eating nectar & feasting on insects.  With the amount of birds that I witnessed during 2 visits, thought really needs to be given that any new planting will produce food for the birds.  Council has recently started planting a new variety of Bottle Brush that looks spectacular, but flowers for a maximum of 3 weeks & interestingly, the birds don’t pay the flowers much attention. The flowers are probably all colour & pizzazz, but low producers of nectar.

The Norfolk Island Hibiscus has recently been added to the list of ‘exempt from protection’ trees in the Marrickville Development Control Plan 2011.  However, their Draft DCP 2010 (the only one I could find) says Council may refuse to grant consent to remove trees if, The tree is part of a wildlife corridor or provides habitat for wildlife; and/or the reason for removal is substantively aesthetics/emotive & relates to leaf, flower, seed &/or twig drop.” I would say that these trees in Harrow Street fulfill all these criteria.  Norfolk Island Hibiscus trees are on many Australian councils lists of recommended street trees.

Council is recommending the following deciduous trees as replacements –

1.   Trident Maple (Acer buergeranum) – A native of China, that grows to 5-20 metres high with a canopy of 6-7 metres & produces yellow flowers in spring. The seeds are known colloquially as ‘whirly-gigs’ because they have papery ‘wings’ & can fly long distances in the wind.

2.   Claret Ash (Fraxinusangustifolia ‘raywood’) – A cultivar of the Ash tree predominantly found in Europe, Asia & North America & grows to 15-20 metres. The dark green leaves turn claret red in autumn. It’s described as having invasive roots.  The WA Water Corporation recommends planting no less that 6-metres from a sewerage pipe.

3.   Jacaranda  (Jacaranda mimosifolia) – A native of South America that grows 12-15 metres high x 8 metres wide & produces lavender bell-like flowers during spring. Jacarandas drop a large amount of leaf & flower debris as well as tough seed pods 5-7.5 cm in diameter.  It’s described as having invasive roots. The WA Water Corporation recommends planting no less than 6-metres from a sewerage pipe.

4.   Golden Rain Tree (Koelreutaria paniculata) – A native of China & Korea that grows 10-metres high & 10-metres wide.  Produces yellow flowers in autumn 5-8 mm diameter seeds that look like Chinese paper lanterns.

5.   Leopard Tree (Caesalpinia ferrea) – A native of Brazil that grows 10-12 metres high x 5 metres wide & produces yellow flowers. It sheds bark in large flakes, leaving a patchy grey & white effect on the trunk. It’s described as having invasive roots. The WA Water Corporation recommends planting no less that 6-metres from a sewerage pipe. The Australian website ‘Save Our Waterways Now’ says of the Leopard tree, This is a weed to be expected” because it grows where the seeds land.  In November 2008, Brisbane City Council said, “Leopard trees will no longer be planted on Brisbane footpaths as the city takes stock of dangerous & nuisance trees ….”  See –

As the petitioners do not like flower, leaf & seed litter & one resident thinks the tree roots may be damaging their property, I suspect the choices for replacement trees will also cause them concern.

I am not a subscriber to planting only native trees, as I believe that many non-natives can be very useful to wildlife & I actually like the trees suggested.  However, in this case none of the replacement trees offer any value to Australian wildlife that I am aware of.  On 15th November 2011 Council approved its Biodiversity Strategy. 3 weeks later they are recommending that Councillors vote to remove a whole street of trees of high habitat value & replace with street trees of no habitat value whatsoever.

We spoke to 2 residents. One appeared angry with me taking photos of the trees & shouted, “I love these trees.”  The other had no notice of a push to have the trees removed.  The first thing they said was, “But the Cotton Harlequins live in them.” They were very distressed & said they would write to Council.

The residents who have put in the petition know, but the remaining residents in the street do not seem to know & I think this is important.

Council should be sending a letter to every household in Harrow Road informing of the petition & hold a public meeting at a good time on the weekend to speak to the residents about this.  Leaf, flower & seed debris & Cotton Harlequin Bugs are not issues of concern to every Harrow Road resident.

To my mind there is already a problem with Marrickville Council’s processes in that the removal of so many street trees is decided without community consultation.  To remove the trees & then give the community a choice from 5 tree species isn’t real community consultation.  It’s the leftovers. Harrow Road is a long road with many more than 27 residents.  They deserve a say.

Lastly, 1 tree has a large drill hole at the base of its trunk & appears to have been poisoned & 2 other trees next to it also show multiple dead branches at the base & on the trunk & perhaps this is also a sign of poisoning.

I have made a short video of the trees here –

Harrow Street Stanmore - all these street trees & more are recommended for removal

Grass tree flower

1.  Last night the Newcastle Councillors voted 7-5 to chop down the Laman Street Fig trees.  From the Herald, Newcastle councillors were still debating the future of Laman Street last night when council staff moved in & began preparations to cut down the street’s iconic fig trees. Councillors eventually voted seven to five in favour of removing & replacing the trees ‘‘as soon as practical.”  By the time the decision was made, council staff had moved safety barriers & were planning to start the chainsaws as early as this morning. The council’s liveable city director Frank Cordingley admitted during a heated debate that preparations were under way to remove the trees, despite the council not having voted at the time.”   Save Our Figs has written about the Council Meeting & decision.  The video covers the history of the fight to save these trees. It’s well worth watching. –

2. Liverpool Council has negotiated with power company Endeavour Energy to remove & replace street trees in 4 locations after being accused by the community of “butchering scores of trees on Liverpool’s streets.”  Liverpool Council’s General Manager said, “Changes to operations were needed to avoid hatchet jobs in the future.”

3.  Northern Territory residents are concerned that trees on the Significant Tree Register are not protected form Council workers who come to prune the trees.  One worker was unaware that the tree was registered as significant.

4.  The community failed to save 3 Fig trees in Main Avenue, Windsor, a suburb of Brisbane despite doing a tree sit.  Brisbane City Council recently lifted a 15-year-old protection order so the trees could be chopped down to allow development. “The 60-year-old figs, which stand on the prestigious Eldon Hill in Windsor, are visible from as far away as Mt Gravatt & Mt Coot-tha.”  The owner of the land is required to plant 3 native trees as replacements.  2 possums were found in the trees.  The community clashed with security unhappy with the attempts to catch the possums.  The possums were not caught.  One of the residents said, ‘‘We can’t trust our elected representatives when they tell us something is protected … until there is some sort of economic benefit that someone is going to get out of it.’’   There is a short video of the trees & the protest here –

5.  The founder of travel clothing group Kathmandu Jan Cameron & travel entrepreneur Graeme Wood bought Gunns timber mill for $10 million paying $6 million less than a rival bidder.  Gunns will operate for a while before being made into an eco tourism destination.

6.  City of Sydney Council is planning to increase the street tree canopy of the CBD by 50% by planting 2,000 trees over the next 20 years. They say this will reduce the urban heat island effect by up to 2 degrees.  69 species of tree will be used. Allergy sufferers in the community are concerned that some of these will be Plane trees.  Cowper Wharf Road at Woolloomooloo would get a row of Sydney red gums, City Road at Broadway a line of brush box trees, Bridge Street a collection of Celtis, & Elizabeth Street a group of plane trees.”  While I think the extra trees is wonderful, I’d be interested to know why it will take 20 years to complete.

7.  Congratulations to the residents of Wilga Avenue Dulwich Hill who recently won Origin Energy’s Australia-wide Sustainability Drive Competition.  They were only one of 4 streets across Australia that were chosen to get $250,000 of solar panels, hot water systems & other energy saving equipment. As I understand, their energy saving progress will be monitored & over the next year so we are bound to hear more about Wilga Avenue.  It’s great to see a street in Marrickville LGA represented with sustainable living, including veggie gardens on the verge.

8.  Willoughby City Council was the winner of the ‘Excellence in Overall Environmental Management’ award (Local Government Awards category) at the recent World Environment Day Awards held by the United Nations Association of Australia.  Willoughby Council has met their greenhouse gas reduction target of 50% from 1999 levels. They are using a cogeneration plant at the Willoughby Leisure Centre, estimated to cut power usage form the grid by 50%. They are also using solar power at council buildings & aim to be the first ‘halogen free’ council.

Gorgeous Bottle Brush tree in Tempe



The Year of the Forest includes urban forests.

Street trees in Surry Hills

I thought I’d put together a few examples of what other Councils & cities are doing regarding urban forests across the world. After a long period of searching the net using every key word I could think of I have come to the conclusion that, really, apart from a few places, nothing much is being done. Basically I read & reread the same motherhood statements that covered the issue in a bland matter-of-fact way with few quantifiable data of what they will do for 2011.

There are a number of voices out there, including the UN, pushing the benefits of trees & linking the presence of trees to human health, safety & quality of life. Trees are also strongly linked to managing & surviving climate change.  I guess as global warming gets more heavy-handed & punches us in the gut a few times, the urgency of planting more trees will hit home. We will see.

Below are a few statements that were part of my search for decent information & include those that said they intended to increase the urban forest & those that challenge some of the attitudes regarding the value & importance of public trees.

  • An urban forest is a relatively new & innovative approach to developing space for recreational purposes. The area is not a manicured or ornamental park, but an attempt to recreate an ecosystem that existed before European settlement & urbanisation. ~ City of Stonnington Council Victoria
  • The Urban Forests One Million Trees initiative aims to redress the loss of local native biodiversity across metropolitan Adelaide. Urban environments will be
  • There are not too many tall trees like these left on the skyline in many parts of Marrickville LGA

    significantly enhanced through increased habitat for our unique flora & fauna as well as improvements in air & water quality. Over a thousand hectares of suitable open space will be planted with a mixture of local trees, bushes & ground-covers creating new urban woodlands as well as helping to buffer, link & protect existing remnant bushland. ~ Hugh Kneebone Adelaide

  • Mature trees from over 300 different species fill Canberra. They significantly contribute to the aesthetics & have direct economic value & environmental benefits. The Australian National University has calculated this value at more than $15 million annually including $3.9m annually in energy reduction (less cooling & heating); $7.9m annually for pollution mitigation; & $3.5m annually for storm water mitigation. Trees have also contributed to the reduction in Canberra’s wind speeds by up to 50% from the once open & windy plains & provide a buffer for extreme temperatures. ~ Department of Territory & Municipal Services.

  • Brisbane city currently has an estimated 46% tree canopy cover in a 1,330 square kilometre region.  49% of Brisbane’s tree canopy cover is on public land. Brisbane City Council’s goals to increase our urban forest are to plant two million trees by 2012, achieve 40% native forest cover, ensure 50% tree shade cover for footpaths & bikeways by 2026 & transform major entry roads to the city into subtropical boulevards. ~ Brisbane City Council

  • Leichhardt’s Urban Forest contributing towards reducing the impacts of climate change & creating a sustainable environment through the protection, restoration &

    A Brushbox decorated for Christmas

    enhancement of our natural environment & native biodiversity including the urban landscape. Increase the health & extent of the canopy or vegetation cover of the Local Government Area to provide environmental & social benefits.  Address climate change locally by increasing the canopy & vegetation to capture carbon, provide shade to reduce ambient temperatures & reduce solar ultraviolet radiation exposure, reduce the impacts of storm water runoff & improve air quality.  Increase the habitat provided by the trees & vegetation in our streets, parks, private gardens & urban forest for the wildlife that now exists in an Inner City context. ~ Leichhardt Council

  • The City of Sydney’s street trees are one of our most important assets. They make our city beautiful, improve the air by removing carbon dioxide & returning oxygen, enhance property values & provide cooling shade.  The City has approximately 29,000 street trees, of over 120 differing species, that are both native and exotic species, evergreen & deciduous & range in age, size &  condition. ~ City of Sydney Council.

  • Victoria’s urban forest has significant economic value. Trees & shrubs help increase real estate values of homes and encourage customers to linger and shop at local businesses. Trees also reduce stormwater runoff and filter air and water pollutants. And, by shading roads and parking lots, well-placed trees increase the life of asphalt. Victoria’s trees also have a tremendous financial value. Each tree is estimated to be worth at least $2,000. This means the value of trees on City land is over $80 million, and much more when the value of trees on private lands is considered.

  • International cities that have recognised the importance of their urban forest are being rewarded with positive social & economic benefits.  These include less graffiti, enhanced feelings of security, less crime, healthier residents & more community involvement. ~ Nursery & Garden Industry Victoria

  • It is estimated that a tree with a 50-year life span provides nearly US$60,000 of benefit over its lifetime. Other benefits are less easily measured, but not less valuable. An urban forest provides beauty that inspires us, recreation that refreshes us & a contact with nature that lifts our spirits. The aesthetic & inspirational value of an urban forest is incalculable. ~ Burlington Vermont

  • The Millennium Forest was a huge programme of urban tree planting & the management of urban woodlands, creating a tremendous increase in the area of woodland in the area. The most ambitious urban forestry project ever undertaken in the UK.

  • Trees are major capital assets in cities across the United States. Just as streets, sidewalks, public buildings & recreational facilities are a part  of a community’s infrastructure, so are publicly owned trees. Trees — and, collectively, the urban forest — are important assets that require care & maintenance the same as other public property. Trees are on the job 24 hours every day working for all of us to improve our environment & quality of life. ~ Colorado Trees

  • In the not-too-distant future, parts of  Beijing city center will resemble the deep forest rather than a bustling metropolis, since an international architecture competition decided on a new environmentally-responsible streetscape.  Once this year’s Olympics come to an end, pavements will take on the form of a forest floor, walkways will be made from permeable materials, water is to be redirected by catchments at plaza level & from surrounding roof tops & solar panels will generate electricity for adjacent buildings & pedestrian areas. ~ Environmental Graffiti Magazine

I wish you all a happy New Year & hope that not only is 2011 a good year for you, but for trees as well. Thank you for your support. Much happiness. Jacqueline

Natures fireworks. Happy New Year!

Feasting Lorikeets

1. The Newcastle community have taken the axing of the Laman Street Figs to the Land & Environment Court today.  In their favour is the Arborist’s Report prepared by Mark Hartley.  Mr Hartley assessed the trees as not dangerous & had serious concerns with several mistakes in previous Reports supplied by Newcastle Council.  I hope the community win. You can read about the decision & the Independent Arborist Report here –

2. In a great move to support Wolli Creek being established as a national park, Canterbury Council have agreed to transfer part of the Wolli Creek bushland at Earlwood to the National Parks & Wildlife Service.  The land is between Bexley Rd & Waterworth Park.

3. Large amounts of Eucalypts are dying across Australia & it is thought to be caused by Bell Miner Associated Dieback. One little bird guarding the psyllid, a sap-sucking native insect that provides food for the Bell Miner is thought to be responsible in some areas.  In New South Wales alone, up to 2.5 million hectares of forest are wasting away. Another theory published in 1968 by ecologist William Jackson of the University of Tasmania & regaining favour is that the Australian bush needs regular bushfires to survive. Interesting reading.

4. Frightening results in a recent survey about climate change of local, state & federal Australian politicians conducted by the University of Queensland.  Of the 300 politicians surveyed, nearly 70% believed anthropogenic climate change was real, but “more than 40% thought a temperature rise of 4 degrees would be safe.” Scary stuff as these people are making decisions for all of us.

5.  2 Fig trees were to be removed in Kensington by the City of Perth Council without community consultation. The Council said the trees were damaging the footpath & could affect fibre-optic cables. Well roads can be fixed, so can footpaths & fear that a tree may damage underground cables is a pretty poor excuse to remove the Fig trees.  I wish Councils would use floating or permeable footpaths to allow them to keep trees. These trees would far outweigh any concrete or bitumen in value & benefits to the community. It’s that old way of thinking again, rip out a tree-it’s the easiest route. The City of Perth Council will now do community consultation about these trees.

6. By contrast, Brisbane City Council ordered a redesign of the $10.2 million Perry Park upgrade to save a row of Fig trees.
A spokesman said council policy was to retain “mature, healthy trees” where possible. In QLD, trees & street landscaping is everywhere & is wonderful.
 It really looks like a different country. Loud applause from me.

7. A row of 14 old, ‘ulgy’ & ‘past their use by date’ Nicolai gum trees along Chiefly Road Lithgow will likely have been chopped down by now.  Lithgow Council said “the trees had been inappropriately pruned in past years by electricity authorities.” I’ve no doubt that this approach to Lithgow looked old & ulgly. Shame it happened in the first place. I wonder when this cycle of tree management will end.

8. A report done by the WA Environment Protection Authority said “declining rainfall & rising temperatures were taking a heavy toll on parts of the 1.2 million hectare state forest area south of Perth.” Paul Vogel, the head of the Environment Protection Authority said there was “more biodiversity per square metre in some of these forests than there is in the Amazon.” The Conservation Council, WA Forest Alliance & Wilderness Society want clearing & logging stopped immediately in affected areas. 850,000 hectares of WA state forest is available for logging, however, the current management plan is deemed severely lacking.

Grevillea flowers



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