Once upon a time, a scientist was interested in the physiology and adaptability of Australian snowgums.
The official name of snowgums is eucalyptus pauciflora because they have only a few flowers (not because their flowers are crummy). In the mountains they’re known for their twisted shapes and striped trunks. They’re the highest tree that grows in the Australian Snowy Mountains.
In 1972 Professor Ralph Slatyer, later Australia’s first Chief Scientist, experimented with planting them even higher up than they would normally live, and successfully grew them at 2100 metres above sea level (that’s 6890 feet in the old imperial measures). In the process he discovered all sorts of things about how plants get water and nutrients under difficult conditions.
From those seeds they grew a number of seedlings of which they gave us three to plant at Esdale. Each tree came with a number and a record of their distant parent.
That’s taking trees that were moved up from fairly high altitude to grow at higher altitude and then bringing them back down to a much lower altitude – from 2100m (6890 feet) to 480m (1576 feet). A challenge for them, and for us.
It matters, because as the climate changes, trees will be forced to adapt or not survive at all, and it’s interesting to see what the potential for survival under those circumstances is.
Meanwhile, a group of students from the Canberra Institute of Technology were skipping through the woods on their way to Grandma’s house.
Er, not really.
As part of their course in Conservation and Land Management, teacher Hannah Selmes contacted Lesley Peden from the Kosciuszko to Coast Foundation so that her students could see a project that had been done and meet “a landholder”.
They are a great group of students. It’s such a joy to talk to people who understand what we’re trying to do and can enthusiastically compare it to things they’ve seen elsewhere. They’d recently been to the Bush Heritage site at Scottsdale and seen what is going on in a rocky, hilly area that has the Murrumbidgee running through it, and that has been partly used for sheep farming. It’s a pretty good and interesting comparison with Esdale, where we have the Murrumbidgee running through, and the land has also been used for sheep farming. Scottsdale has had years to get where they are today, though, lots of funding and thousands of volunteers.
Here, we are working on what I think is the cutting edge of conservation. That means keeping the land in production and combining that with conservation while making sure it has a viable income for the long term. However, it’s a beautiful thing when there’s the support to keep a piece of land purely for the native animals and plants. I’m going to have to go and see what they’re doing at Scottsdale.
Anyway, I led these students off the beaten path into the woods…Well okay, up to the box-gum woodland area. I love showing people what we’re doing here. and not only that, but Hannah volunteered her students to help with the tree planting. They helped me with my mountain of mulch for the seedlings in the box-gum woodland area.
I gave a long version of how we do tree planting here, using Matt Kilby’s Extreme Tree Planting system with pre-spraying, mycorrhizae inoculation, planting minerals, deep holes, mulch mats, coreflute protective covers, 20 litres of water, and then a final big blanket of mulch. It’s a system that works for us, with our rocky ground, long grazing history, and steep hills. In other (flatter, less rocky, more fertile) places easier systems can work well too. This one is just doing whatever we can to get trees to survive.
Perfect for our special snowgums.
After lunch the students went birdwatching near the river and saw a Whistling Treefrog (Litoria Verrauxii). An unusual type of bird. No one offered to kiss it.
In the end, the Three Little Trees lived happily ever after in their new pink homes on the hill.