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I had been meaning to get down to Mahoney Reserve on the corner of Illawarra & Wharf Roads Marrickville South since I saw ghostly skeletons of Poplar trees in the distance a

Showing the dead Poplars & giving an idea of their height

couple of weeks ago.  Once we got down to have a look it became apparent that all the Poplars are dying. 6 Poplars are stone dead. I was told they died last year. They stand like mutilated sentinels, a ghostly grey.

This is an avenue of 21 Poplars planted around 40-years ago. As a guess, each tree would be about 22-26 metres tall. These are substantial trees in Marrickville LGA as there are not many of this height & size. They are also landmarks as they are visible from many areas on both sides of the river.

In my amateur assessment, the trees have been killed by boring insects as there is evidence of borer holes all through these trees.  Only the 3 Poplars situated along Illawarra Road appear to be savable.  They seem to be in reasonable condition with only small amounts of dieback. They too have evidence of boring insects, but like the Poplar further along the Cooks River, intervention by chopping back the offending branches may just be what will allow them to survive if the borers have not yet reached the trunk. (See – ) says the following –  “Boring insects are often the most harmful to trees & if left untreated can cause death. Boring, or tunneling, insects cause damage by boring into the stem, roots, or twigs of a tree. Some lay eggs which then hatch & the larvae burrow more deeply into the wood blocking off the water-conducting tissues of the tree.  Boring insects generally feed on the vascular tissues of the tree. If the infestation is serious, the upper leaves are starved of nutrients & moisture & the tree can die. Signs of borer infestation include entry/exit holes in the bark, small mounds of sawdust at the base & sections of the crown wilting & dying. It is important to regularly monitor a tree’s trunk for signs of boring insects to enable early identification & quick treatment. The key is to prevent infestation by keeping the tree as healthy as possible. This includes proper pruning, watering, mulching & fertilization. Pruning should be done in late fall or winter to avoid attracting insects to open wounds. Dead or fallen wood should be removed immediately. Once borers are present, control becomes extremely difficult, but steps should be taken to prevent further damage & to stop the spread to surrounding trees.”

A double row of Casuarinas dividing Mahoney Reserve & Marrickville Golf Course. These trees don't reach half the height of the Poplars

From my reading I understand that all trees should be checked periodically for signs of disease. Borer infestations can be diagnosed before dieback starts by seeing holes on the trunk or branches. At this state, systemic, chemicals can be put into the ground around the tree (maybe a problem with the Cooks River metres away, though they say the chemicals are non-toxic). Chemicals are also injected into the tree to kill off all boring insects at whatever stage of development they are at.  There is also a technique of literally skewering the insect to death.  Then the tree is fertilized to help fend off the stress it has been under.  If the tree is severely infected, it needs to be destroyed on site to prevent taking the insects to another location. The trunk & roots need to be removed from the soil as well & the soil treated before any new trees can be planted.

One by one we looked at the trees along the Wharf Road side of Mahoney Reserve. It was difficult to find a tree that wasn’t showing borer holes & rot.  Many had ant infestations as well.

The trees of Mahoney Reserve are very sick. Dieback takes a while to manifest, sometimes up to 5 years. My limited knowledge tells me that planting new trees will just provide further resources for the boring insects that are in control of this area unless the infestation is removed.

The Poplars especially, with their 2-3 metre girth are substantial carbon sequesters.  To have lost 6 & have the rest at serious risk of being chopped down as well is devastating on a number of levels.  Big canopy trees is what the park needs to replace the trees that have died & any others that will be lost.

We saw boring damage on about 70 trees in the one park & there are probably more. Just leaving the problem play itself out is not a solution. This park needs a comprehensive management plan to ensure what trees can be saved are saved & a replacement program be implemented to plant trees that will produce substantive trunks & shade. Shaded avenues along the parks & the river walks will be more & more essential as the sun is getting hotter & hotter.

I put up a 2 minute YouTube of Mahoney Reserve showing the trees –

The avenue of dead & dying Poplars are on the left to centre with Casuarinas on the right

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. p

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.

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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