The tallest White Gum in the world

In Tasmania I learnt to expect plantations like these when I saw the word ‘forest’. I drove through miles of this to reach the Evercreech Forest Reserve, 52 hectares that wasn’t clearfelled.

I reached the tree for which the Forest is famous.

The White Gum, Eucalyptus viminalis, is thought to be 300 years old. I walked around the wooden platform at the giant’s base, looking up at its ninety-one metres. Awesome. But then I read its history, and the platform seemed more a collar imprisoning it, like a bear in a sideshow.

Twice it was saved from being felled, neither time by altruism or respect. In the logging of the 1940s and ‘50s, it and its fellow White Knights, as they have dubbed them for the tourists, were too big for the bullock teams to take out. By the logging resurgence of the ‘70s, they had bulldozers, which brought the road to the very base of this tree.

One of the foresters, thinking it seemed exceptionally tall and might set a record, had it measured. They then had to convince the world that it really was Eucalyptus viminalis, so far above the known limit was its height. With such a trophy to show off, they reserved 52 hectares as a display case for it.

But … how many others, almost as big and as old, did fall to the dozers? This is tokenism; the saving of the tallest tree was an accident of egotism.

In low spirits I took the walk along the moss-bouldered creek, where the tree fern trunks are so thickly furred with moss that they bulge like bottle trees. This is an intensely green world — rocks, logs, trees, sticks, earth — all green.

But the mossy ground was peppered with millions of tiny fallen leaves, shaped and shaded like roasted slivered almonds in their range of ambers, and bright colours from orange to burgundy intermittently called attention to clusters of fungi feeding on rotting logs.

My jeans became soaked as the track took me through waist-high ferns still dripping from earlier showers. I persevered to the promised waterfall, a dainty lacework train with a graceful bend, forever trailing down the shining dark slide of the rocks. Pretty. But I was cold and wet, and over ‘green’, as I wouldn’t be on a hot summer day.

I was glad to drive up into sunlight, the heater drying my jeans, but not looking forward to retracing my way through the other sort of forest.

Evercreech Forest Reserve is beautiful — if poignant. A reserve means a remnant; it reminds me of what is lost, the major part of a natural world that wasn’t reserved. An island of forest reserve in the midst of plantations has no wild edges.

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