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.

7 thoughts on “The tallest White Gum in the world”

  1. Hi Trevor,
    Thanks for a great comment, and what a memorable phrase–’the sandstone moaning’! And that ‘noise almost below hearing’ is the low frequencies from the heavy diesel machinery, the infra-sound that has caused much heart and breathing troubles elsewhere; it gets worse further from the mine as it travels though hills etc.
    Unfriendly spirits indeed.

  2. Hi Sharyn it’s me again! I can see that glow Jennie mentions from my place. They call it Mt Thorleigh or something. On a quiet night I can hear the sandstone moaning, and I’m at Laguna. The indiginies call the noise (almost below hearing),” the old man with the bull-roarer” but it never stops. There is a spirit at large upon this place that ain’t friendly to life of any sort. It’s politely known as the “economy” and most people worship it. Hmmmmm.

  3. Beautifully, poignantly, put Jenny. Thank you for letting me know that what I do is of some use; mostly doesn’t feel like it.

  4. Hi Sharyn,
    What would we do without you.
    You share with us the exquisite beauty of what remains; and bring
    to us the horrible truth of human actions and the environmental
    disasters happening around us. Makes me cry too, but also makes
    me determined to speak out in protest and try to do my little bit in
    my little part of the world, in spite of the glow of the lights from the coal mines on the horizon.
    Jenny F.

  5. Hi Denis & Trevor,
    There was a lot to be sad about in Tasmania – and a lot to to be awestruck by. It may be because they still have a lot of wildlife left that there is so much roadkill. A contradictory place.

  6. Hi Sharyn
    Well expressed story.
    Very sad, and yet we persevere killing things off – to near extinction.
    Whales, Orangutans, bears, koalas (on NSW South Coast, as we speak). Kangaloon Sun Orchid in my local area, is found in two swamps, about to be pumped dry by Sydney Catchment Authority.
    Makes me cry, just thinking about it.

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