Tree shapes

I have finally gotten around to cutting back the verandah’s vines of wisteria and ornamental grape. They have twisted around themselves and each other to form very strong and sculptural outstretching limbs.

This year I am experimenting with leaving more of their extremities, their claws, poised to shoot green fingers further than before perhaps.

Beyond them, against the always leafy eucalypt forest backdrop, the never-pruned birches form fine traceries that catch and hold the light.

As the cold windy weather kept me indoors more, and with an unresolved writing project requiring distraction from mounting anxiety about it, I dug out the craft paints bought long ago — for a rainy day project. They’d been on a sale table somewhere; some were metallic, and colours were limited.

My pantry doors are visible from the front door; they were blank, bland, boring plain. Now they bear a stylised tree with a gold vine twining up its improbable fruiting branches.

As always, I now wish could fix the mistakes evident from a distance but lost to me when it was under my nose, and I wish I’d made it more conical —  but I think I like my new winter tree, a compromise between bare shape and summer bearing.
 
And I can always paint over it if I decide I don’t.

Tree dwellers

Collecting kindling, I happened to walk around the back of the big tree whose roots cradle my ‘insulator’ bird water bowl on the other side.

From the different perspective, the early morning sun illuminated something incongruously light-coloured high up on the rough brown trunk.

It was a fat fungus but I could see little detail until the light was brighter.

Even then, it was hard to see over the top of it, and what I photographed didn’t match anything in my fungi books.

Luckily I knew where to go: Gaye’s fungi blog. I looked down her list of fungi by colour. ‘Beige (without gills)’ I thought was a good bet.

And there it was:

‘Laetiporus portentosus, commonly called White Punk, forms large, thick brackets on living Eucalypts. It causes white heart-rot to the host tree… Brackets can reportedly reach 350mm wide… The upper surface of the fungus has a slightly ‘velvety’ texture and can be off-white, beige, to a warm ‘biscuit’ brown colour — the pock-marked under-surface is riddled with tiny larvae’.

 There’s more on her site — Gaye’s knowledge is first-hand, first-rate and a boon to people like me who are interested but not very informed.

I am a little worried about the ‘heartrot’ she mentions, given that this tree is already host to a few young Native Cherry (Exocarpus cupressiformis) trees, which are parasitic on the roots.

However, while I was around this rear side, I saw a fresh view of one tree dweller that won’t be harming it.

The orchid buds that I photographed at its base not so long ago have shot up into leggy adolescents, sheathed in white silk.

Nature is full of surprises.

Bare-skinned gum trees

Late summer, and the smooth-trunked gum trees here have shed their bark clothes– perversely, just as it’s getting chilly. This  one near the path to the outdoor loo astonishes each time I walk by with the amount of bark strips from just one tree. No wonder we build up such a good fuel load for bushfires.

I always want to stroke the new bare trunks, cool to the touch, and yet warm too, with their slight dimples and bumps.

It was only in the photo, not the flesh, that I noticed this engaging detail (right) — an arm and hand, rather Gollum-like, pensively poised on the chin of this emerging face.

Even the saplings contribute a lot of bark to the forest floor, rising shamelessly bare and beautiful from their shredded skirts (left). The bigger ones here are often multi-trunked — the only reason they weren’t logged 50 years ago. The early morning sunlight has tinted this one with apricot, which I am admiring when I spot yet another detail.

Backlit spiders’ webs on a nearby Angophora, a complex of levels and patterns, given solidity for just a few minutes until the sun rises higher. What a world of surprises!

Lemon Tea trees

I love all natural lemony scents and flavours. I love lemons, and have many lemon trees of the cultivated and bush varieties, never wanting to be without lemon juice or peel in the kitchen.

But I also have two native trees with lemon-scented leaves.

This little beauty is the Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora), and I pick and dry its leaves to add whole to my teas.

On the tree, you have to crush a leaf to get the perfume. The beautiful starry clusters of flowers are a bonus I hadn’t expected from this Queensland rainforest tree.

The other is a Lemon Scented Ti-Tree or Tea Tree (Leptospermum petersonii). It too can be used to make tea, although I haven’t. It’s grown into a lovely spreading shape, and the slightest brush against the leaves does release a strong lemon scent.

From a distance — like the house — the simple white flowers seem to dust the tree with light snow.

This one has a history: it seeded itself into a pot of aloe vera I had sat beneath the only tree in the tiny back yard of an inner-Sydney semi I was renting.

I love chance seedings — and freebies! 

Forest fires

Many early colonists thought the Australian bush a drab monotone of greyish green, blinded as they still were by the vivid lime greens and emeralds of their European trees and mist-made lawns.

I hope closer acquaintance taught them to see more clearly – if they hadn’t cleared all the bush around them.

At present my forest’s greens of a million hues are lit by fiery reds and hot pinks as new spring growth announces its presence.

These small ferns (left) prefer the shadier side of the mountain but are particularly beautiful when backlit, set alight by sunshine striking into a clearing. I stopped on the muddy track to capture the moment as their individual tongues of fire flamed amongst the grass.

The sunny side of the forest holds its fires high, blazing in bunches through the dense older growth and across the sky. We may not get autumn colour, but I challenge anyone to say that our eucalypts are drab or lacking seasonal variety. These gum tips are downright pretty!

Colouring my world

 It’s Autumn, and my yard is being coloured– by more than autumn leaves.

The indigenous Bleeding Heart Tree (Omalanthus populifolius) that I raised and planted shows how it got its name with its bright red veins that seem to drip to colour the lower leaves.

The first bunches of wattle blossom have burst out of their tightly fisted buds — small explosions of powdery gold, honey-scented. I grew lots of these from seeds that fell from a tree in my Aunty Mary’s front yard in Sydney; we didn’t know what sort it was, but perhaps it’s a Queensland Silver Wattle (Acacia podalyriifolia)?

The bird-sown gift of a Pittosporum undulatum tree, also indigenous, has fruited its mini cumquat bunches for the first time. How did I miss the flowers? The bird didn’t plant it in the position I’d have chosen, but this has soared to such a height so quickly that it clearly found the perfect spot for the tree — if not for me!

Tree pods


I’ve been on the road a bit lately, researching for a book.  It means I get to use my cute little tent, camping in new places. I do like the freedom of being able to stop as and where I like — affordably.

My first night was spent at Coolah, where for $7 I got a great camp site, access to a campers’ kitchen and clean amenities with hot showers. Plus the shade of a beautiful spreading tree, which was very welcome as I sweated and struggled to erect the tent in the late afternoon.

Camp set up, glass of wine in hand, I began to look more closely at my surroundings.

There were willows by the creek, and cows — and a bull — in the adjacent paddock, separated from me by a single wire that I assumed was electrified.

I don’t have much knowledge of introduced trees, and was wondering if the beauty under which I sat was an elm, when I noticed some seed pods suspended within reach. Might be nice to grow a tree like this at home!

They seemed to be the only ones on the tree; luckily I refrained from picking one long enough to realise they were not seeds. Like Indian clubs, these smooth creations were hanging from a criss-cross of spider webs.  I could just see the spider’s legs protruding from its dry leaf shelter (circled).

Once home, my I.D. attempts tell me this is a Bolas spider. The egg sacs are described as being like spindles, but the photos show them to be as rounded as these. Given that the egg sacs were about 50mm long, I was surprised to read that the spider is small — the female is 12mm and the male 2mm!

If you want to identify that spider, the Findaspider website is the place to visit.

Arty nature

The significance of ultra-abstract art often eludes me; I might appreciate it as design and colour, but it doesn’t speak to me. I don’t warm to it, relate to it, as I can to the merely abstracted, stylised, simplified, where the origin is vaguely discernible. In the latter the artist’s treatment of it stimulates my imagination more than straight realism would.

As pure visual beauty, for shape and colour and flow, I’d hang this one on my wall any day — if I had any space left around the bookshelves and existing paintings and photographs. The uncluttered look is not for me; I want everything I love where I can see it.
The cabin might be full, but I live in the midst of a forest that can dazzle me with temporary exhibitions of works of art like this one. The paint was fresh and bright after a spell of rain; a week later the colours will dull and fade, or flake off.

The artists are always ‘Anon’ but they belong to a most innovative and talented group called ‘Nature’.

Fungi frenzy

A spell of rain, summer heat, and we have steamy weather that signals to fungi to explode.

The first day of sun I walked up the track, feeling sure I’d see some new fungi.
Less than I’d expected, but spectacular enough, for low down on the burnt-black trunks of many of the stringybarks were intense dustings of orange dots.
Moving nearer, I was reminded of the dense colonies of tiny bivalve shells I have seen stuck to rocks on marine rock platforms.
As the individuals were so tiny, I had to go up really close to see their fungi features.

Several sunny days and one wild thunderstorm later, not a dot of orange is to be seen. Talk about living for the moment!

Toona baby

toona-1My little Red Cedar (Toona australis) trees are putting forth new leaves. These are of bronzed burgundy red, although the trees are not named for that, but for the rich red of the timber when cut.

Two-by-two, one pair above the last, on opposite sides of the stem, they raise themselves higher.

 
 
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I walk closer to feel the new growth, expecting softness, fragility. As I put my finger gently underneath the newest arrival, it seems to curve firmly around my finger, its strength as surprising as a new baby’s reflex — and as charming.

Wattle takeover

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Winter gold flourishes in the Wollombi Valley as I drive through on a dull day. Wattle, acacia, mimosa — our national flowering tree has many names and many species.

Not all have blooms as richly yellow as these soft powderpuff clusters, but most are hardy and quick-growing, if short-lived.

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Where land has been disturbed they colonise thickly. I pass what seems to be a plantation of wattles on a flat creekside paddock, fenced and tidily contained in rows.

Then I see it is actually a takeover of what was once some city hobby farmer’s dream vineyard. It is small, not commercial — would have produced just a few dozen bottles to share with friends, to show off his own label.

The grapevines are still there, but the wattles have shot way past them and have claimed it for their own, re-labelled it Wattle Flat.

I am a little sad, wondering what happened to the dream.

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Tree light

tree-light-1As Autumn becomes Winter, under perpetual grey skies, the intermittent thin drizzle keeps the saturated ground weeping down the hillside.

In all the dimmed-down garden and bushland, one light shines each day to greet and cheer me with its brightness.
 
My Liquid Amber tree is incandescent with warm colour, from yellow to purple and every pink and red in between, yet it still holds some green at its heart. The ambient daylight is so low my camera admonishes me to use the flash, but I trust my tree light.

This tree was burnt to a dead stick in the 2002 bushfire but it shot back from the roots and grew strongly to be the tall beauty it now is, seven years later.

I wonder if, forged in the intensity of that fire, it was given new genes, genes that hold the memory of the colours of fire, to warm my heart with the sight.
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