Monday, September 12, 2005

Eucalyptus



One of the most common things I hear people say about the Australian bush is how drab it looks. European preconceptions make us think that the emerald green lushness of the Northern Hemisphere is somehow the 'correct' way for the countryside to appear, and that there is something wrong with the blue-greens and olive hues of the eucalypts and acacias and melaleucas and all the other plants that make up Australia's forests.

But this is the ill-considered view of the person who hasn't spent time among eucalypts. These beautiful trees are subtle and complex, and like all worthwhile things, patience is required to fully appreciate them.

Some interesting snippets about eucalypts:

★When the early ships of explorers and white settlers came to Australia they knew they were approaching land well before they could see it; the eucalyptus forests were so dense they could smell them miles from shore. (Gum - Ashley Hay)

★Eucalypts grow prolifically on the west coast of the US but they do not belong there. I once had an animated discussion with a producer of a well-known classical music group in which she insisted that eucalypts were native to the US. They are not. The 600+ known species are endemic to Australia, with about 12 further species known in far southern Asia. The reason that eucalypts grow in California is because they were taken there in the 1870s, perhaps by miners returning from the Australian gold rush. They had optimistically thought that this hardy tree would be a useful source of hardwood timber. Indeed, the trees thrived in their new home. They grew fast, as much as twenty feet a year. Too fast. In Australia, the growth rate is checked by insects and drought, to produce a very fine-grained hard timber. In North America, there was nothing to slow them down. The transplanted trees were big and impressive, but their timber was fibrous and brittle. It was a disaster. Now the eucalypts in the US can't be considered much more than weeds.

★Koala bears are not bears, and do not spend their days stoned out of their minds on the oil from eucalyptus leaves, as many people believe. Koalas are just very relaxed kinds of guys.

★Only one tenth of Australia's original forest remains. And this is being cleared with little thought. It is a travesty of the highest magnitude. We humans don't deserve this place.

4 comments:

Blogger Radioactive Jam said...

Might be due to an overdeveloped geek nature but I find this info very interesting. That last bullet - not good. Any serious preservation efforts underway?

September 12, 2005 9:56 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Interesting your comments regarding Koala's.
I think they reallys show some decent Australianism, by the way they have adapted.
The brain of the Koala is only 30% of the size of the cavity for it. The reason for this, is to consevre energy, they have over time gotten rid of the things they don't need.
Some days, I think a lot of humans are really just shaved Koala's.
HooRoo
Bec

September 13, 2005 7:13 AM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

rj: Well we do have The Wilderness Society which is doing its very best, but much of its effort goes to saving Tasmania's old growth forests (which is a worthwhile goal for sure). There are patches of the mainland which manage some kind of maintenance, but in Queensland inland clearing proceeds apace. Even during my lifetime I have seen huge areas of forest in my home state of New South Wales disappear under the bulldozers. Really, they should stop all clearing RIGHT NOW to have any effect. It's not going t happen.

rebecca: I think humans have a less than 30% brain capacity as it is... Koalas would do a better job of ruling the planet.

September 13, 2005 9:29 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

You are forgetting about how they had Eucalypts in the Everglades, and our dear ol' gum trees started drying 'em out. So what did they do? They set fire to them. For those non-Australians hanging around, gum trees, on account of the number of bushfires that occur in Australia, have this neat trick. When the seed pods are burnt, the seeds are released and hey presto! three times as many gum trees are suddenly popping up everywhere.
Dumb asses.

You're forgetting one other, important fact about koalas; they have very sharp teeth and claws. Be warned.

October 23, 2005 4:23 PM  

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