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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cleveland Heritage Pines

As noted in the post Photographic records help to age trees in the southeast corner of Queensland Norfolk Island Pines have often been planted as part of the emerging character of our developing towns, and carried on into the early 20th century municipal landscape design.

This is the case all along the Gold Coast from Currumbin up to Jacobs Well, it is also the case in Cleveland on Moreton Bay, where two pines in particular stand out as significant historical landmarks. They are located at 127 Shore Street North and are believed to have been planted around the early 1860s by Brisbane Valley squatter Francis Edward Bigge, an enthusiastic promoter of Cleveland as a port town rival to the emerging dominance of Brisbane.

I was not able to take a photograph from the water, but these two trees apparently still have a useful role as aids to navigation for small boats approaching Cleveland.

The bifurcation in one of the trees is interesting such structural 'defects' are often focussed on by persons carrying out inspections and assessments of trees, clearly for this tree in its very very exposed site this 'defect' has not led to major failures under wind loading, despite being up there in the stem architecture for a very long time.

Sketch of Cleveland 1892

The two trees are part of a small community of trees including a number of figs of varying ages, the Pines are listed on the Queensland Heritage Register Place ID 602181..they have (thus far) survived the process of urban development around them, and have changed very little in the last 100yrs, rather like many people the most noticable change in the appearance of the trees is the thinning of the canopy on top!

 View from the Cleveland Hotel 1906

Two pines and their neighbouring figs 2009

Excellent details regarding the recorded history of these two trees and the development of the local area can be found within the entry on the Qld Heritage Register; Cleveland Pines (left clicking this link will take you away from this page) There is also more detail regarding a recent trip to the Bay Islands on the Wandering Arborist Blog Cleveland and the Bay Islands (again left clicking this link will take you away from this page)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Growing Conditions the Key to Understanding Veteran Tree Growth Rates

As if to prove the degreee of individual site specificity that we need to apply to our considerations when estimating tree age, a recent trip to Grafton highlights the dramatic difference in  growth rates in different conditions.

Located right on the bank of the Clarence River is a magnificent Fig Tree Avenue (Breimba Street, Grafton).

Each of these trees appear to be much bigger than  the fig tree at Southport in the last post...

Yet despite the dramatic difference in size and growth that these Ficus microcrapa 'hillii' demonstrate...they were in fact planted at exactly the same time as the Southport Bathing Pavillion Ficus benjamina, the explaination for any difference lies in the different growing conditions.

Being able to determine the age of specific veteran tree specimens accurately helps us to recognise just how detailed we need to be in our assessment of the history of growing conditions for a tree when the planting date is unknown.

Being 10-30yrs out is not a big issue and we shold always acknowledge the possible range inherent in our estimates, but being out by 80-100yrs could be a problem when we are framing a strong arguement to retain a tree based in part on its relationship to our own histories.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Using known planting dates to callibrate Veteran Tree age assessments

As previously mentioned our photographic history can be a fantastic resource, often in family portrait shots there will be a house and garden in the background, many times broad landscape shots highlight large significant trees of the period when the picture was taken. Even though it is somewhat unusual to have an actual tree planting picture it does sometimes happen as seen in the missing trees shot at Burliegh, and the Southport Bathing Pavillion shot below:

Now since we know the photo was taken in 1938 we can have an accurate estimate for the tree's age....looks like a 5yr sapling so allow +/- 5yrs then approx 80 yr old Ficus benjamina:

Now just how such a young tree could, or should fit into the concept of Veteran trees....well to be honest of course it is not a 'Veteran Tree', it is however a historically significant tree for the Gold Coast region, and understandably so when you view the other trees along Marine Parade (The Gold Coast Highway).

One of the less obvious consequences of looking at trees with a view to longer time frames, to how they connect with our own past, our own that you begin to find living connections with that past in unexpected locations.

For Veteran Tree hunters having the knowledge that this sized Ficus benjamina is 80yrs old gives you a useful benchmark for other similar species growing in similar locations, yes there will be a degree of variability even along our part of the coast... but if you found, say a Hill's fig in the hind dune area twice as big (with respects to Diameter at Breast Height DBH) you could be relatively confident that it would be around 120-150yrs old.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Photographic records help to age Veteran Trees

One of the biggest advantages we have in Australia when it comes to determining the age and role of many of our siginificant urban trees is that the history of white settlement is so recent, there are some amazing photographic records of the late 1800's and early 1900's that provide insights not only into the presence and size of some trees but help us to place those trees in a historical describe why these trees might have been important.

Local libraries certainly can have surprising collections of books, newspapers and journals all potentially touching indirectly on the topic of large significant vegetation.

A really great collection of photographs are to be found in the National Library of Australia:

I have found some incredible records that have helped gain rapid recognition of historical and cultural significance for trees, a process that might otherwise have been prolonged and protracted. Sometimes the results from a search can be just as surprising for me as anyone else, the pictures are little snap shots in time often revealing brief moments in the lives of the people within them....such pictures always leave me with the wish to know more about the subject matter.

This picture sows empty tree guards in 1934 along the shore at Burleigh after trees planted by the Justins brothers had been removed. They planted 100 Norfolk Pines ~ Araucaria heterophylla, on a Saturday and on the Sunday when they went to attend them 60 trees had been removed. It was first reported that vandals had removed them but in later years information that came to light seemed to indicate that the Shire Council had them removed.

The trees had been purchased from the State Nursery in Sydney and were landed in Byron Bay by steamer, the Norco Butter Co transported them to Burleigh Heads free of charge. The trees cost 1 shilling and threepence each (13 cents). Eventually the trees were replanted by the Justins family and are still standing today around what is known as Justins Park.The Heart of Paradise - The History of Burleigh Heads by Robert Longhurst p 68 Justins - Sherborne to Australia p62

Now having the date of the plantings enables a pretty accurate age to be given to the Norfolk Island pines at Burleigh, it is also a reminder of the importance of highly motivated individuals and government bodies, a great deal of the significant landscapes along the east coast (including the Gold Coast) are the result of determined planning.

These pines are deemed iconic and rightfully so, it is also clear from other photos that some of the trees were planted before 1934...the picture below taken in the 1930's clearly shows a line of well established pines along the edge of the main road against the beach.

Another view from the same era (1940's) looking back towards the bowls club from the beach: