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Our Red Flowering Gum - flowering at 6 months

Continuing the series on native bird-attracting trees …If I was asked to name one tree that symbolised Australia to me it would be a toss up between the Red Flowering Gum Corymbia ficifolia & the Wattle Acacia.  I can think of many other trees that are also quintessential Australian like the Waratah & the Banksia. However, for the purpose of this post I am going to stick with the Red Flowering Gum.  The Wattle can wait for later.

I didn’t actually see a Red Flowering Gum until about 10 years ago.  This is probably because they are native to Western Australian & as I understand it, they had difficulty surviving on the east coast, or at least in Sydney. The first Red Flowering Gum I saw was a smallish tree with many trunks growing in a neighbour’s front garden.

The next Red Flowering Gum I saw were a line of mature street trees along President Avenue Kogarah.  They were quite different in that they were much taller (7 metres at least) & had a single reasonably thick trunk.  They were in full bloom & each tree was festooned in clumps of vivid red flowers. I fell instantly in love.

Around 5 years later, whist going for a walk, I came across a fantastic street tree, also mature, that was covered with spectacular red flowers. One of the residents came out & said the tree was a Red Flowering Gum planted by

Hot-Pink Flowering Gum

the owner of the house in front of which we were. They too loved this tree & thought the neighbourhood was lucky to have it. The camera got a work out that day.

Since then I have been on the look out for these trees at nurseries.  It was not a purposeful search & perhaps they were around, but it was only 2 years ago when we came across some for sale.  We didn’t hesitate buying one.  This year the nurseries are full of them & they are all grafted varieties to make sure they grow well in NSW.

There are bright red, pink, even hot pink flowering species on offer. Some grow like my neighbour’s into a small shrub-like tree with thin trunks that grow from near the base.  Others grow from 6, 10 & 15 metres & the descriptions say they are suitable for use as a street tree because they have a straight growing trunk & a controllable canopy that tends to grow into a round-shape.

Gum nuts from our Red Flowering Gum

So why would you plant one?  I think there are many reasons: birds love these flowers. Before I planted our tree I moved the pot & the flowers spilled a considerable amount of sticky nectar on my hands.  I think it would be considered good bush tucker because the nectar was sweet & would make a nice drink. Don’t suck the flowers before making sure there isn’t a bee inside because bees love them as well.

Red Flowering Gums were called Eucalyptus ficifolia until the 1990s when it was changed to Corymbia ficifolia.  They flower from spring through summer. The flowers also range in size & can be as large as a 20 cent piece.  Once the tree has finished flowering clusters of urn-shaped gum nuts remain. These are also good food for bigger birds.  Plant specialists say it takes 7 years before the tree flowers, but ours did in its first year.  Others say that the tree flowers in one part of its canopy & in another the following year.  Many of the saplings we saw at the nursery had a flower or tow allowing you to make sure it is the colour you want.  I suspect this early flowering is the result of grafting, but this is just a guess.

The flowers are exquisite & the cup of each flower is a beautiful strong yellow.  The leaves are lance-shaped & can be quite long. They also change colour during autumn, though the tree doesn’t drop many leaves.  The branches grow a lovely rusty-red colour adding more beauty to this tree.  This tree appears to be ever changing throughout the seasons.

Bee feasting on flower nectar

It’s also a terrific shade tree & copes with heavy pruning. I don’t think it will be too long before other dry weather countries start growing this tree because it is showy & easy to manage.

There is a new variety called Mini Gum that grows 2 metres high & 2 metres wide.  It too has showy fire engine red flowers that develop into gum nuts & often has a repeat flower in autumn. It would probably cope in a pot, as long as it doesn’t become water logged & is planted in a part sandy soil. Like many natives, this tree doesn’t particularly like wet, rich soils & thrives in infertile soil.

It would be perfect for lining the railway lines around Sydney & could be interspersed with Grevilleas.  I have heard that Marrickville Council has planted some as street trees somewhere in Dulwich Hill, which is a great decision.

So, if you want a good bird-attracting flowering tree, which doesn’t make ‘widow-makers,’ give the Red Flowing Gum consideration. I doubt you will regret planting one.

Another tree lost from the St Vincent's de Paul complex at Lewisham - photo taken by Brigette - thanks

1. It’s with sadness I report another tree has gone from the St Vincent de Paul complex at Lewisham.  This time one of the lovely Eucalypts has been removed from the front of The Rectory in Thomas Street.  I was told recently that they intend to remove all the Eucalypts in the complex because of dropping branches, which is a crying shame because they all have 2-3 metre plus girths so they will be doing a terrific job at sequestering CO2.

All the Eucalypts are straight growing & as far as I can tell, don’t pose a threat to nearby buildings.  Most importantly, they support local wildlife.  I witnessed a family of Kookaburras perched in one & was told many birds have made these trees their home.

I don’t understand why a dying branch can’t be pruned.  Chopping the whole tree down seems to be overkill.  Oh well, less loveliness in the area & more cement.

The locals are extremely unhappy about the removal of this tree & some cried while they watched it being chopped down.  I can relate as I could not bear to watch the Stanmore Gum be removed last month as I knew it would be too upsetting.

2. Marrickville Council’s web-site has 2 street trees up for removal.  The first in Dixon Street Dulwich Hill is an old Eucalypt.  It’s a lovely tree, but it is riddled with borers & if left, will most definitely fall down.  I’d guess it to be of the stock that was planted in the early 70s.

This Dixon Street Eucalypt in Dulwich Hill is riddled with borers

The second tree is in Belmore Street Enmore.  This tree also has significant & obvious problems.  If left, it is likely to drop at least one branch soon.  Pruning will not help it as it has deep rot high up in its branches & in parts of its trunk.

Remember this post, because I have agreed 2 trees should be removed.

2 other trees up for removal are in Ivanhoe Street Marrickville.  They both have signs on them, but there is no mention of them on Council’s web-site.  Why?  How many other street trees go this way without notification on Council’s web-site?

3. The Cumberland Courier reported that Ryde City Council has just received a government grant of $97,566 to help protect fauna.  This is great news for the significant wildlife corridors between the Lane Cove & Parramatta Rivers. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/funding-to-help-fix-up-habitat-for-our-wildlife/

4.  Another Cumberland Courier news item reported that Liverpool Council is calling for suggestions for sites where they should undertake bush regeneration.  This will be funded by their environment levy.  Liverpool Mayor Waller said they have “funded some 30 bush regeneration projects…planted 147,757 trees & restored about 12.4km of creek line.”  Not bad!  This is a significant amount of tree planting & will be of major benefit as the years pass & the trees grow. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/help-restore-liverpool-sites-to-their-natural-beauty/

5. The Cumberland Courier reported that Hornsby Council has a problem.  Local heritage Bunya trees dropped a 7kg nut through a roof of a resident’s house.  They will debate whether to pay for the seasonal removal of the Bunya nuts or chop the trees down.

I know which option I would choose.  How many Bunya trees are there in Sydney?  A day’s work (maximum) removing the nuts & the community gets to keep important & beautiful trees.  Has Hornsby Council ever thought of asking the local Aboriginal people if they would like the nuts?  I understand they taste wonderful & are prized bush tucker.   http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/bunya-debate-to-be-heard-by-full-council/

6. The Herald Scotland reported fantastic news that gained international attention & applause. The Scottish Government’s Scotland Rural Development Program has given a grant of 1 million pounds to create 600 acres of new native woodland & 193 acres of productive conifer woodland.  The area is the size of 323 international rugby pitches & will be planted out with 450,000 trees that are expected to sequester around 130,000 tonnes of CO2 over 50 years.   Interesting also is that Scotland is aiming to become zero carbon producers. http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/transport-environment/450-000-trees-set-to-be-planted-in-woodland-scheme-1.1006809

7. The UN’s Billion Tree Campaign released its achievements saying that, by the end of 2009, participants in 170 countries had planted 7.4 billion trees (not a typo) This gives me hope for the future. http://www.unep.org/billiontreecampaign/

8. Residents in Pittsfield Township, Ann Arbor USA came out & stopped the power company ITC Holdings Corp from chopping down several 25 year old trees which were within 10 metres of power lines.  The residents sought & were granted a restraining order against the company until a court hearing on 24 February 2010. Interesting reading & commendable commitment from residents. http://www.annarbor.com/news/pittsfield-township-homeowners-block-power-companys-attempts-to-cut-trees-today/

9. A letter was published in the Pub Beaufort Island Gazette, Hilton Head Island USA refuting the local airport’s stance that they need to chop down 1,400 trees on airport property & another 983 trees on private property supposedly for safety of planes.  However, removing these trees will seriously affect noise control & the area is a Bald Eagle habitat amongst other issues. phttp://www.islandpacket.com/opinion/letters/story/1135750.html

this street tree in Belmore St Enmore is diseased

10. If we lived in Portland Oregon, we would have the opportunity to be involved in their City-Wide Tree Project, which is deciding on regulations for trees to complement their urban forestry plan.  Portland is making the news a lot recently because they have officially recognised the benefits of street trees & have recently proven that property values increase significantly when there is a healthy street tree out front.  They calculate the benefit of a street tree at US$7,000 citing this is the cost of a new bathroom.  Try seeing what you get for that kind of money here!  House prices in Portland are also significantly cheaper than in Sydney.

Portland plans to increase their tree canopy by 50,000 street trees & 33,000 garden trees by 2015 (again, not a typo) to improve the lives of citizens & wildlife as well as help combat the effects of global warming.  This is quite different form the recent recommendation in a Marrickville Council report to councillors to remove 1,000 street trees a year for the next 5 years. The report  did propose to replace them with saplings, but how beneficial this will be is questionable as it says most do not survive.  http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2010/02/street_trees_increase_home_val.html

11. To end, Thornlie (Perth) man Richard Pennicuik is still sitting up in the street tree out front of his house after commencing his protest on 5th December 09 to stop Gosling Council from removing the street trees.  Judging by comments on internet-based reports about him, views about his protest are polarized.  Some think he is a hero.  Others are filled with hatred toward him.  Strange that people would be so abusive toward someone they don’t know & whose actions have zilch effect on them.  Me, I admire him & wish him success.

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