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The gum tree menace – time for action?

By johnboy 5 March 2009 76

[First filed: March 04, 2009 @ 12:48]

Gum trees are frequently beautiful. They smell nice. They’re iconically Australian.

But there are some downside too. They’re programmed by evolution to try and burn all other life forms to death.

And, as pictured they like to drop enormous weights from above. This was not a sick tree, the wood is not rotten, the branch was not dead, and yet here it is in an Ainslie park across a path children walk along every day on their way to school.

As Canberra gets older and the eucalypts get bigger is this something we need to get serious about?

Gum trees

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76 Responses to
The gum tree menace – time for action?
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peterh 5:09 pm 11 Mar 09

johnboy said :

It’s an old theory, but still valid from what I’ve seen. Indigenous hunting methods were heavy on fire, much of the casuarina is either edible or useful, at the time of indigenous settlement the dominant casuarina gave way to the fire-thriving eucalypt.

The early explorers made particular note of all the smoke from the hunting fires.

agreed, jb, that the indigenous peoples had an impact on the australian continent, but the megafauna had all but died out, considering that the aboriginals arrived here 60,000 years ago, and the climate had already started to change. The great inland seas had dried up, and the volcanic regions had died. There was more area for the animals to inhabit, but the larger species were limited by their particular diets. The newer hardy species of animal and plants had started to take over, smaller versions of all but the diprotodon, which was hunted to extinction by the new land occupiers.

many areas weren’t colonised by tribes, whether from lack of access, or no particular need to explore beyond their territories. The gum trees, and native plants and animals that remain here now were just far more adaptable.

Furry Jesus 5:03 pm 11 Mar 09

I never worried about falling branches until I found one on my front lawn big enough to kill the little Jesi (Chocolate and Penguin) together…

johnboy 4:47 pm 11 Mar 09

It’s an old theory, but still valid from what I’ve seen. Indigenous hunting methods were heavy on fire, much of the casuarina is either edible or useful, at the time of indigenous settlement the dominant casuarina gave way to the fire-thriving eucalypt.

The early explorers made particular note of all the smoke from the hunting fires.

peterh 4:43 pm 11 Mar 09

Mr Evil said :

That’s all lies – I thought Aboriginals were the caretakers of the land!

I blame climate change for the megafauna degeneration, never heard that it was arsonists…

the animals evolved to the smaller versions around today. they didn’t become extinct, evolution just changed them into a size that was able to deal with the changed land mass after gondwanaland broke up…. (not the band)

el 4:38 pm 11 Mar 09

I blame global warming.

Mr Evil 4:37 pm 11 Mar 09

That’s all lies – I thought Aboriginals were the caretakers of the land!

Emlyn Ward 4:31 pm 11 Mar 09

After arriving in Australia, the aboriginals:
– wiped out the macrofauna
– desertified vast tracts of land
– caused the destruction of vast areas of our ancient Casuarina forests, causing it to be replaced by Eucalyptus.

David Barnett explained it the other day:

“We are, naturally, hearing about Aboriginal management, about fire-stick farming, belief in which has been adopted holus-bolus by every politically correct scientist, public servant, commentator and just about every ordinary, terribly decent, individual. It is rubbish. The Aborigines, our first migrants 60,000 years ago, burnt the bush as a hunting technique. They were Stone Age. They had no steel to tip a spear, nor bows to secure great range. They did not use pits, for how could they dig them?

So they set the bush on fire and walked through when the ground was cool, collecting their tucker. They had no idea of conservation, that is of preserving breeding stock, and indeed, with firestick farming, how would that have been possible?

In due course the leaf-eating marsupials of the Pleistocene era became extinct: wombats the size of rhino weighing a third as much as an elephant, and a whole family of blunt-nosed kangaroos.”

peterh 4:24 pm 11 Mar 09

el said :


i think she means that aboriginals are all arsonists, can’t be sure…

el 4:10 pm 11 Mar 09


Emlyn Ward 2:04 pm 11 Mar 09

We should be aiming at reversing the damage done to the environment by the aborigines’ millenia of arson by replacing eucalyptus trees with Casuarinas wherever possible.

Prior to aborigial immigration, the continent had far more forests of mostly Casuarina trees.

peter@home 11:23 pm 05 Mar 09

Gungahlin Al said :

Native of China. Leaves up to 600mm wide (yes that ain’t a typo!). Invasive, fast growing. A risky prospect in Queensland, less so here – like camphor laurel in a lot of ways I guess.
Key risk here I’d say would be blocking up your drains with the giant leaves, leading to localised flooding.

bugger. thought that they were a native. however, there is a bit more info re the trees at: including – The leaves and flowers are rich in nitrogen and therefore serve as good fertiliser and fodder. The flowers are
colourful and beautiful in spring and the trees are green and shady in summer. Paulownia species are therefore very suitable for beautifying and enriching the environment. They are also equally suitable for landscaping of urban and industrial areas.

Paulownias can adapt to a wide range of temperatures. All species in Australia are known to withstand temperatures of -10o to +40o centigrade

qwerky 9:42 pm 05 Mar 09

Granny said :

I really don’t know what the answer to this one is.

Driving along a rural road in Victoria once, a huge branch only just missed the car in front of us. The shocked driver pulled over and some locals told him it happens quite frequently. As we continued driving, we noticed the number of fallen branches littering the road with a heightened awareness.

I just adore trees of all kinds and hate to see them removed, but a Canberra without gum trees is especially hard to imagine.

Then again, I am still traumatised by Judy’s tragic end in Seven Little Australians.

I hear you, Granny! I’ll never forget how upset I was by that when I saw it when I was about 12. Even more vivid than reading the original story.

andy pandy 6:39 pm 05 Mar 09

All trees drop limbs, yes eucalypts have a tendency to do it with a higher frequency than many of other species, but I can think of a number of other trees that I would be more wary of. Ornamental pears, especially Pyrus calleryana have a tendency to snap with amazing regularity when they reach maturity, some maples and poplars to.
I have many photos of Mature north american oaks,that I have worked with that have dropped limbs, split etc… causing all sorts of damage. Many trees in Canberra’s urban forest have not yet reached the point where this becomes an issue.
I am not oppossed to removing trees for valid reasons but feel removing them because they are “widow makers” is not appropriate.
One might also ask if a school had such dangerous and evil trees why a parent would knowingly allow there child to be exposed to such a threat (perhaps such a parent might be liable too).

PinkysBrain 4:37 pm 05 Mar 09

PinkysBrain said :

The big gum tree in our yard just dropped a large branch on the weekend. It landed next door, where my neighbours 2 and 4 year old play on their swing set. I estimate the branch missed it by 2m. The remainder of the tree will be gone by the end of the week. The government inspector who came to evaluate it didn’t even hesitate, he just said have it cut down as soon as possible.

Just a quick update: the tree has now been cut down. I asked for the remains to be left to use around the garden and so they left it. However, the majority of the wood was stolen from our yard by some random person with a trailor. My wife managed to get photos of them as they returned for their second load and they saw her and drove off. The photo of their license plates is too blurry to make out unfortunately but I do have a good shot of the driver. I can’t see the point in involving the police for a trailer load of wood that I would most likely have given away. At least they left us the mulch.

What kind of person would steal lumps of wood from a strangers yard anyway?

dexi 4:01 pm 05 Mar 09

“If you had been poisoned by them you wouldn’t be so smart. …when did you leave school?”

Wookie’s don’t go to school. They smoke billys with gruff goats.

monomania 3:16 pm 05 Mar 09

stonedwookie said :

Please think of the children!!!! LOL get a life you old whingers how about we get rid of all the roads because there’s cars on them that might hit your little kiddies next bread cause they might choke on it.
Im sure your kids will be whinging about YOU! when there’s no tree’s n oxygen cause you idiot bogans have cut them all down then hopefully they will die off and remove your poor genetics from the gene pool!

Don’t be a complete idiot, Stonedwookie.

The ACT Government did remove a few species of gums known to suddenly drop large limbs from their school grounds and had others inspected and pruned. They replaced trees with safe species.

In the same way they removed asbestos (ALL loose asbestos I had thought) and schools had to remove a range of toxic chemicals from the science technology and art departments.

If you had been poisoned by them you wouldn’t be so smart. …when did you leave school?

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