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4 of the 7 large trees photographed here are recommended for removal & will not be replaced. Crepe myrtle trees will be planted in the grassed area. The Crepe myrtle here is indicated by the red dot at the base of its trunk.

Marrickville Council is planning an overhaul of historic Petersham Park in Petersham.  I’ve done my best to translate the plans. There is a Legend on the side of the plans offering a range of symbols in various shades of green & one has to scroll around the map trying to find the symbols.  It would be so much easier if there was list of what will be removed, replaced etc & any trees to be removed coloured red.  Perhaps that would look too imposing, especially on this map.  I apologize in advance if I have made a mistake translating the plans.

The Petersham Park Masterplan recommends –

  • removing 8 of the 26 large Camphor laurel trees from the magnificent memorial avenue of trees that make the Brighton Street entrance.
  • removing 4 of the 10 large Camphor laurels along Wentworth Street.
  • removing 5 of the 7 large trees near the entry to the Fanny Durak Pool & the playground.  That will mean another shadecloth structure. Council are removing these trees because the soil is compacted. Soil compaction can be treated without removing trees. Axing these trees is simply the most expedient option.
  • removing 4 of the 12 large trees along Station Street.
  • removing  2 other large trees inside the park.
  • removing  7 of the 14 large trees from the boundary of West Street.  Apart from

    In January 2011 the last of 31 trees were removed from the St Vincent de Paul Society complex. For many decades these trees matched the trees across the road at Petersham Park on the right of this photo. Now Council wants to remove 7 of the 14 trees along here

    1 tree with significant dieback, I cannot see why these trees need to be removed.  They have been badly pruned, but so have the majority of the trees in the park.  Most look like champagne glasses because of Council’s long-standing policy of pruning all side branches.  The plans recommend not replacing trees along West Street to offer unrestricted visual access into the park. Unrestricted for who? The third storey across the road?  Whether on foot or in a car you can easily see into Petersham Park.  No substantial trees will also ensure that the traffic noise from ultra-busy West Street would fully infiltrate the park.

  • If I understand the Legend correctly, the ultimate recommendation is to remove all the trees along West Street. If that is correct, the remaining side of the once glorious avenue of trees will be lost.  (Last January 2011 St Vincent de Paul Society completed the removal of 31 trees that formed the other side of the avenue of trees. See – )
  • All up 30 very large trees are to be removed.
  • 38 new trees are to be planted. Sounds great, except they will be small stature ornamental Crepe myrtle & Cape Chestnut trees.  Many new tree plantings fail so even whether these 38 trees survive remains to be seen.  Figs & large Eucalypts have been suggested for the Brighton & Wentworth Street as replacement for the trees removed in these sections.
  • Cape Chestnuts & Crepe Myrtles are to be planted in the space between West Street & the oval to offer colour.  I am rather horrified that Crepe myrtle trees are popping up across Marrickville LGA when there are many better choices of small native trees that offer colour as well as food for wildlife.
  • Very small spaces will be planted with groundcover for Bandicoot habitat where trees have been removed on West Street. Although habitat for the critically endangered Long-nosed Bandicoot is of paramount importance, especially now that their habitat across the road at St Vincent de Paul Society has been destroyed, the size of the proposed habitat is tokenistic at best & keeps the Bandicoots near the very busy road.
  • Council also plans to upgrade the playground, repair the stonework, repair the paths, add some lighting, add some garden beds, replant the existing garden beds & add a decorative picket fence to part of the Brighton Street entry – all good.

Magnificent trees are recommended for removal, yet this & others like it will stay

There are many wonderful things about Petersham Park.  It is remarkably different from most parks in Marrickville LGA in that it has many very large trees as well as large shade-producing trees throughout the park itself, not just around the perimeter.  Removing so many large trees at one time would be devastating. To remove half of the trees on West Street only to replace with groundcover & add some Crepe myrtles further in would to my mind, reduce this side of the park to ‘ordinary.’

I know parks have to be maintained & Petersham Park, even for its beauty is showing signs of neglect, but in my opinion, the bulk of the large mature trees are doing well.  The paths, the playground & the garden beds are what needs work & yes, some trees need to be removed, but I wonder about the choices of trees.  The Prunus looks scraggly & a couple of Fig trees look quite weird & unhealthy.  I could have removed 20 trees, however, only 1 of those trees matched the trees Council is recommending for removal.

4 out of 10 trees here are recommended for removal

It’s obvious that some trees are to be removed simply because they are mature or that removing the trees will allow for the new fashion of having clear unobstructed views deep into parks.  To me, that’s not a good enough reason to remove healthy mature trees which are doing great work in sequestering large amounts of CO2, removing particulate matter, improving air quality as well as providing shade & beauty to the area.  Mature doesn’t mean dying.

There are dead street trees all over Marrickville LGA, some that have been sitting there for 18 months or more.  Then there is the borer infestation of Mahoney Reserve & the 6 dead

8 out of the 26 trees along the avenue are recommended for removal

Poplar trees that are still standing.  These things make me wonder why so much money will be spent removing so many trees in Petersham Park when very few of them are showing obvious signs of deterioration.  They are mature trees & for that very reason, quite spectacular.  I’d rather the dead & dying trees elsewhere be removed than 30 mature beautiful trees from the one park. Council needs to start to grow replacement trees (further in the park if they are to be Fig trees to allow for the canopy) & when they have grown to a decent size, only then do a graduated removal of the other trees.

I recognize that Marrickville Council wants to do the best thing for the park & it is good that community consultation was offered. However, the plans for Petersham Park remind me of the intention in the draft tree strategy policy that was so poorly received by Councillors in early 2010 & which has been redrafted. That report spoke negatively about mature trees & proposed cutting down 1,000 trees per year for 5 years. Is Council still pursuing this kind of goal?

Any written feedback to Marrickville Council from the community is due by 28th February 2011.  The plan can be downloaded here (5MB) –

I made a video of Petersham Park here –

The red dots indicate several Prunus & 1 Fig that looks sick. These insubstantial, scraggly 'trees' are to remain while 30 large mature trees are to be removed.


The Guardian UK has published a set of 30 photos of stunningly beautiful trees, many of them 1,000 years old.  The first photo of Ticknall lime Avenue trees planted in 1846 remind me of the Poplars that line the walkway alongside the Cooks River at Mackey Park though the difference in age is around 130 years.

The photographs chosen by the UK National Trust’s ancient tree adviser, Brian Muelaner are worth looking at if you like trees.  I love that trees in the UK are cared for & regarded as national treasures.

The Fig at St Stephens Church Newtown is one of Sydney's oldest trees. It was planted in 1848

Last May 2010, the Woodland Trust launched its Ancient Tree Hunt in London. They asked people to look for “fat, old trees” & give them a hug.  The broad rule of thumb is an ancient tree will be 5m or more around the trunk – about two & a half adult hugs – though some younger qualifiers like the cherry & silver birch are only one adult reach.”

How lovely. Hug a tree to assess its age.

The Ancient Tree Hunt’s website says they have already found & verified 54,603 ancient trees across the UK since beginning the search in 2007.  They hope to find & map 100,000 of these trees by summer of 2011. I can’t imagine something like this happening in Australia even if we had ancient trees.  Ancient trees are only usually found in forests & even then they are likely to be logged.  Old trees in urban areas are labeled senescent & removed before they can deteriorate or cause trouble.  It’s an obvious difference in philosophy & culture between our two nations.


You may have seen on the TV news last Friday that Railcorp removed 3 100-year-old heritage Fig trees on Wahroonga Railway Station.  2 more will come down in October 2010.  Railcorp says:

RailCorp will be replacing the fig trees at Wahroonga Station to resurface the platform & prevent further structural damage. The roots of the trees are threatening the structural integrity of the platform & if left in place will continue to damage the heritage-listed station building, damage sewage systems & prevent future improvements to station facilities. The Heritage Council of NSW independently came to the same conclusion, & placed upon RailCorp a number of conditions for the removal of the trees. The issue has existed for two decades & can no longer be avoided.

Not the Fig trees being discussed

The community is mighty upset about the trees removal saying there were many alternatives to removal.  Reading all the documents & news articles, it is clear the trees were removed because their surface roots made the platform surface bumpy & created a trip-hazzard. However, the trees are located at the far ends of the station & those who walked there have known about the state of the station surface for 20 years.  I was not able to find any information about complaints from the community about the tree roots & the station surface.

Railcorp argued about 2 other things which lead to the removal of these trees: the cost of pruning these trees & that in the past they caused damage to old clay sewerage pipes.  They fear the trees will invade the pipes again, but my plumber says, “This is the beauty of plastic pipes, tree roots can’t invade them.”

Railcorp intend to replace these trees with 6 Blueberry ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus) & jazz up the station by planting 120 flax lily (Dianella caerulea “Breeze”) as a ground cover.  It should look nice when completed, but I doubt they will look as nice as those old majestic trees.

I think most of the train stations I have seen in Sydney look shocking.  Their gardens are ugly & the emphasis is on bitumen & low hedges. I would guess this is to be able to have a clear view of the platform for commuter safety & to discourage bad behaviour. Still, I can see no reason why much of the space toward the end of railway stations cannot be planted a little more creatively.

Railcorp’s intention to plant 120 flax lilies proves they can do something which has the potential to be quite stunning. By making this station pretty, they hope to improve public relations.

Not only do I wish Railcorp would landscape the railway stations in a better way, (for example, they don’t need to stick with using the garden beds which were made 100 years ago as they are poky little plots often in odd places), I also wish they would plant along the railway line on both sides & in barren spaces between the lines.  Grevillea are perfect for the smaller areas. In other areas, taller trees can be planted.

The RTA plants trees along major highways. There is no reason why Railcorp can’t do the same on their land along railway lines. Not only would it help green ugly areas, it would help minimize noise from passing trains & prevent areas looking weedy & filled with garbage.  Just an idea.

Mackey Park Figs - the Fig trees on Wahroonga Railways Station were pruned & did not have such a wide shape

To say it can’t be done because there may be a need for pruning will not work for me as I’ve seen numerous empty sites located quite a way from the train lines.  I just think it’s always been ugly along railway lines & no-one except Wendy Whiteley has ever challenged the status quo.  Time for a change even if only to help mitigate or manage climate change.

I had not heard of this issue until last week & am sad these trees have been removed. I know the feeling of anger & frustration felt by the community where it doesn’t make sense to remove such beautiful trees.  My respect also to the woman who climbed one of the trees for a while to protest about them being chopped down.

On a positive note, I am impressed at the news coverage by both TV & newspapers about this issue. The Sydney Morning Herald had an article yesterday where they said:

Among those campaigning for the trees’ preservation was NSW Opposition Leader & state member for the area Barry O’Farrell. But NSW Premier Kristina (Keneally) supported their removal, claiming the damage caused by the roots was a hazard for people pushing prams & those in wheelchairs.

The same argument was used for Orphan Creek in Forest Lodge in 2009 to justify removing all the trees for a very wide cement path, even though those who used wheelchairs & mum’s with prams came out & said not to do it.

In another article from the North Shore Times 9th June 2010, an Arborist suggested the following to retain the trees:

To encourage the roots to grow deeper, a porous asphalt system available since the late 1990s could be used. Vertical barriers could also be installed to deflect root growth away from structural elements. “In this instance, a barrier maintained flush with the asphalt pavement could be effective in preventing surface root growth & should be trialed,” he advised. The report suggested tie rods could be used to improve the structural integrity of platform walls with minimal damage to the trees. The alternative – finding a replacement planting – would be problematic, as few species would tolerate the growing conditions. “The performance of the subject trees under these conditions for nearly 100 years is remarkable,” the report said.

All up there have been 14 articles about this issue in the main papers over the last week or so.  Does this mean the community & the media are starting to care about keeping trees?  I certainly hope so.

I must say I am impressed with how much information about this issue is provided on Railcorp’s web-site.  It is well worth a look. It was also interesting to read that Railcorp said the trees were only “part way through their growing cycle” at 100 years old.  Makes me wonder at the use of the word ‘senescent’ when  I read it in Marrickville Council documents.

So, goodbye to another group of Sydney’s beautiful old trees. Perhaps in a couple of decades there won’t be any left.

I recently came across a video segment from the program Stateline on ABC from March 2010 where they discussed the dollar value of trees.  This video discusses the following & more:

  • The loss of Adelaide’s street & park trees for lack of water
  • Melbourne has decided to water their street & park trees
  • A real estate agent talking about how both street trees & trees on the property increase the value of the property
  • How much trees are actually worth
  • What it will be like to live in an area that has few or no trees
  • Councils used to irrigate street trees
  • Residents used to give trees both on their property & in front of their property regular watering
  • The cost of watering trees to save their life far outweighs the cost of losing a tree through lack of water
  • How the fact that a tree is not a native somehow gives permission for it to be cut down
  • Trees can be worth as much as $100,000
  • Trees are assets & investments which appreciate over time

roots of a big, beautiful Fig

In Melbourne, they are talking about how their 100-year-old trees are “an extremely valuable asset” while Marrickville Council talks about our older trees as “senescent” & past their time.  You may remember earlier this year Marrickville Council put up a plan before the Councillors to remove many of the old trees over the next 5 years.  The designated amount was 1,000 trees to be removed per year for 5 years targeting senescent trees.  Thankfully the Councillors did not accept this Tree Strategy Issues Paper, but it was a close call & a revised Paper will be returning for consideration soon.

This video is 7 minutes duration.  I whole-heartedly recommend watching it.  If you do, check out the hole in one of the larger trees right at the end.  I have seen a

Pine tree in Brighton le Sands

tree like that closer to home along the beachfront at Brighton-le-Sands.  A few of the tall pines had substantial holes in their trunks. Rather than chopping them down, Rockdale Council had the rot treated & the hole cemented allowing the tree to remain stable & continue to live for the benefit of the community.  I would imagine those trees are heritage listed.

When I was a child, it was quite common for a Tree Surgeon (as Arborists were called then), to be employed to save trees on private property. I remember watching them scrapping out the hole, using chemicals to stop the disease & filling the hole with cement, just like a dentist fills dental caries.  I saw trees bolted together if they had a split in their trunk & other such things that seem to be out of vogue today.  Nowadays, the simplest intervention seems to be to cut the tree down saying “everything has to die.”  True, but many tree species live far longer than what we are led to believe.  Melbourne is proof of this.

As we have been in a long & protracted drought that is not over yet, trees dying from lack of water is going to become a significant issue, especially if the culture changes & trees are truly recognised as significant green assets.  We may yet return to the days where Councils water the public trees & property owners take care of the trees on their property as well as the tree out front.  I have my fingers

lovely Fig in Enmore Park

crossed.  Already around the municipality there are trees dying.  Some of them were stunners that now stand brown & present a danger of falling, damaging property & perhaps a risk to life.  I find it sad as many of these tree deaths could have been averted if they had been watered.

Another article in the same vein that may be of interest says Adelaide City Council is considering putting a dollar value on its trees following in the footsteps of Melbourne.  This may lead to developers being required to compensate for the trees they say they need to chop down by planting trees to that dollar value.  So if trees are valued at $100,000, they will be required to plant trees to that value.  I’m hoping it may bring business to those tree companies who are skilled at large tree relocation.  Relocation costs may actually be cheaper than paying for the trees that would be lost if chopped down.

The Stateline video & a transcript of the main points can be accessed by clicking on the following link-

This beautiful tree-lined walk along the Cooks River offers respite from the city's hectic life. The tall trees which make this section special.

I nearly fell over when I saw this street in Newcastle

Festival of the Trees: When I think about festive trees I think of Christmas trees.  As it isn’t Christmas, the next tree I would call ‘festive’ is the Fig tree because it is so large, brimming with life & has the amazing ability to make me feel good.  Fig trees it is.

I love Fig trees, any type & the bigger the better. I love that they grow very tall & if left unpruned, can look like a mammoth upturned bowl of leaves.  The Hill’s Fig is my favourite.  I love the colour of its leaves & the way its branches get a whitish look & grow skyward.

Fig trees have featured in the greater part of my life.  They are all over Balmain were I spent a good chunk of my adult life & were in the grounds of most places I worked.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours sitting under Figs working, reading & chatting with friends.  I’ve had picnics & held parties under them.  I’ve even had a ‘first kiss’ underneath one.  Unfortunately I have never lived with a Fig tree on the property, though I have had friends who did.

I don’t live close to a Fig tree these days, but in the past I did.  I used to love listening to the bats eating the figs in summer.  In particularly hot summers, the fruit would ferment & the bats would become drunk & fight amongst themselves, which made it difficult to get to sleep at times.  After a couple of summers, the bats’ behaviour became white noise & I would have to specifically tune in to hear them.

I also like to watch bats as they fly around.  Just last month I spent half an hour watching the bats circle the Fig trees at a local park.  Quietly, the bats flew around & around.  After a while, I realised it was play.

Sometime I will get myself organised to go to the east entrance of Wolli Creek to watch the thousands of bats fly out for the night.  I am told it is quite a spectacle.  As previously mentioned, the bats in the city are also beautiful to watch & I think this is a terrific bonus to tourism for Sydney.

a gorgeous Fig in Sydney's Domain

I love the thick branches of Fig trees.  I particularly like the way part of their root system is above ground.  I like the roots that descend from their branches ready to support the branch as it gets bigger & heavier.  I like the knots that develop after a branch is cut off &, of course, I love their trunks.

I like how dark & cool it can be when there are many mature Figs planted close to each other.  Other than being in the water, there is nowhere cooler on a hot summer day.  I even like that it takes a while for the rain to get to you if you are taking refuge from the weather by standing under a Fig.

Sydney City Council puts Fig trees to great advantage by using their spectacular size & canopy to highlight many areas in the city & surrounding suburbs.  The fairy lights wound around the branches of the avenues of Figs in Hyde Park & make it a very romantic place after dark.  I think they add more fairy lights during the Festival of Sydney & this immediately creates a magical party feel.

Leichhardt Council has many old Fig trees throughout the LGA.  They have recently planted Fig trees every 4 metres along Lilyfield Road (which is at least a couple of kilometres long).  Apart from being a beautiful feature to the street-scape, they also hide the railway line.  Give the trees a few years to grow & this thoroughfare will look tremendous, with a huge canopy spilling over the road.  I predict property prices here will rise even more.

Marrickville Council has its own Figs including the oldest Fig in Sydney, though I’m not absolutely sure of this.  The St Stephen’s Fig was planted in 1848.  See – It is most certainly the oldest in the LGA.

Part of a Fig tree in Enmore Park

Another very old Fig tree is on a private property in South Street Tempe.  This is also a very special tree. Then there is the ancient Morton Bay Fig in the IKEA development that the community is concerned about.  Council also planted a ring of Figs in Tempe Reserve that I hope I live for long enough to see mature.

I would think most Councils in Sydney have a significant quota of Fig trees as these were popular in the early 1900’s.  Now many are getting old (read senescent in ‘Arborist Speak’) & I fear they will be replaced with something like Tuckaroos.  If this happens, it will be such a loss.

If I were a Town Planner, I would insist that a Fig tree was planted at as many street corners as possible.  Imagine the dramatic entrance to ordinary suburban streets if this is done.  They do this in the Sunshine Coast to great effect.  Shopping strips are kept cool by these trees & people linger just to sit in their shade.  Because shoppers linger they spend more.  Research has shown 11% more.

I would also make Fig trees mandatory in public parks & in the grounds of hospitals, because a green outlook helps people feel emotionally good as well as increase the body’s healing ability.  I would have Fig trees in school grounds to protect the children from the sun & stimulate their imagination, because Figs are magical trees & easily the stuff of fairy tales & tropical islands.  Children, particularly girls, learn better when they can see trees during study.  Boys tend to be calmer in leafy surrounds.  The Fig tree is a giant in this regard.

To my mind the most amazing Fig in Australia is the ‘Curtain Fig’ in North Queensland. to see photos. To quote from the site:

  • It is one of the largest trees in north Queensland.
  • To count the tangled roots of the Curtain Fig would take a week.
  • Its curtain of aerial roots drops 15 metres (49 feet) to the ground.

How can I get Marrickville Council to plant one of these?

Fig trees in the Domain, outside the Art Gallery of NSW & in Hyde Park

Driving down Renwick Street Marrickville South yesterday afternoon I saw to my horror a pile of greenery lying at the base & along the gutter underneath the Hills Figs near the corner of Carrington Road.  These trees have been mutilated AGAIN!  I last posted about this group of trees on 5th January 2010 –

I have watched these trees since 1996.  These magnificent Hills Figs stood sentinel to the old PYE factory. For some years an electrical company used a part of the site & the rest was a busy timber yard and then an also busy scaffolding supplier. Large trucks used to go in & out the property 6 days a week & nothing happened to the Fig trees except people used to treat them as a dumping ground for all sorts of household rubbish & for the sake of neatness, they were compelled to put this at the base of their trunks.

Then the property was sold & a DA was lodged with Marrickville Council around 2007.  My awareness of these Fig trees heightened because part of the DA was to remove a perfectly healthy magnificent Hills Fig on the Warren Road side of the development & a couple of others on Carrington Rd & Renwick Street for driveways & public visibility of the complex itself.  The community fought this DA for a year ending up in the Land & Environment Court.  The outcome concerning the trees was that only one tree would be removed to construct a driveway at a different place at the front of the development. The community’s fight managed to keep the loss down to one tree.

Over the past 2-3 years, I have watched all sorts of massive damage occur to these trees.  No one knows who is doing it, though we surmise it is done by parking trucks because the damage is done high up in the branches on the road side of the tree.

Renwick Street Marrickville South showing the actual path drivers take & how much room & clearance there is regarding the row of Hills Fig trees

The Fig trees on Carrington Road are literally cleaved out after trucks parking there tore off branches. It’s unlikely that passing trucks did the damage as Marrickville Council has pruned these trees to ensure they are not an obstacle to traffic.  Both Carrington Road & Renwick Street are wide enough for trucks to pass easily & safely.  However, Council seems to not be able to do anything about drivers who decide to park close to the kerb & ram their way through branches.  The only solution is to prohibit trucks parking there.

Do the drivers come in so fast they are unable to brake?  Or do they find the branches a pest & deliberately ram into them?

These trees are very much loved by the community.  They are a landmark in the area &, as there are not many large street trees in this area, we would like to keep them for as long as possible.

I have asked people how they feel about these trees & the response is always one of fervent approval immediately followed by concern that something is going to happen to them.  Recently people have approached me to talk about the state of the Hills Figs on Carrington Road.  In conversations there is an air of pessimism about these trees.

The Tree Strategies Issues Paper which was before Council earlier this year recommended that 59% of the trees in Marrickville LGA be removed.  Council were recommending targeting the mature trees which were labelled ‘senescent,’ meaning ‘approaching an advanced age.’  This block of Hills Figs are senescent.  I would guess they are around 80 years old.

Am I alone in thinking that older, mature trees look fabulous in the main?  It is their size & height that I find particularly attractive & trees need years to grow large.  I don’t understand the need to chop trees down when they are mature, though it has been explained to me that urban trees find it difficult to grow to their full life span because of the difficulties inherent in an urban environment – soil compaction, injury, lack of water, lack of nutrients, disease.  Why can’t Council take special care of our older special trees when they are senescent?  Why is the answer to chop them?  I need to say here that Marrickville Council has not suggested removing these particular trees.

Considering all the adversity these trees are suffering because of human activity, I fear that Council will look at these trees in a year or two & say, “Too damaged.  They need to be removed.”  Chop!  There goes another link to the area’s history & another major loss of beauty that we sorely need.  Not to mention the CO2 sequestration they achieve.

It would be preferable if Council could do something to prevent trucks parking there because the drivers can’t be trusted to not damage the trees.  I know that City of Sydney Council would not tolerate such vandalism done to their trees.  They consider trees the city’s assets & I think they exercise more power over roads because of being the city of Sydney.

I also believe that if Marrickville Council did have a Significant Tree Register, this would go some way in helping implement strategies to protect these trees from drivers.

This week’s damage destroyed yet another large branch.  The photos below tell the remainder of the story.

The yellow arrows indicate damage spots to two of the trees



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