Our region goes ‘Nuts about Gums’

Our region goes ‘Nuts about Gums’

Eucalypt expert, Dean Nicolle, visited the South East last week as guest speaker at our Nuts about Gums events. The public talk Friday night and bushwalk Saturday morning were a combined event for the Community Nursery and Restoring Under-represented Ecological Communities (RUEC) projects.

Dean has dedicated his life to his passion for Eucalypts, having published over 60 articles and books on the subject, and created the world’s largest collection of Eucalypts at the Currency Creek Arboretum. His presentation at Wehl Street Theatre in Mount Gambier attracted about 60 members of the public from a large range of backgrounds and interests, and from all over our focal region – recommendations for accommodation were sought from people traveling from Portland, Apsley, and Warrnambool.

Attendees learned of Dean’s life-long passion for eucalypts, including stories about a 120 kilometre trek in the ‘outback’ he undertook with his family as a teenager to find an elusive species of gum tree, through to detailed explanations of the interesting varieties of eucalypts found around Australia and particularly the South East of South Australia.

Dean finished his talk with a slide show of the Currency Creek Arboretum which he and his father created back in the 1990s and now maintain, boasting over 800 eucalypt species. The Arboretum is on 88 acres and is a hub for scientific research of national importance. Overall, attendees enjoyed an entertaining and informative talk on our amazing eucalypts, and a light supper and chat afterwards, with many electing to purchase Dean’s revised reference book Native Eucalypts of South Australia at a special discounted rate on the evening. (A limited number of copies are available from the NGT office; drop by or get in touch for more info).

The Germein Reserve bushwalking crew

On Saturday morning, a casual bushwalk was held at Germein Reserve, near Dingley Dell (Port MacDonnell) as this reserve contains one of the best examples of South Australian Blue Gum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon ssp. megalocarpa) Woodland in the region (locally known as Dingley Dell Gum). This woodland type has been a focal habitat for the RUEC project being run on behalf of Natural Resources South East and aimed at promoting under-represented vegetation communities and to increase stewardship of patches that remain in the landscape.

Discussion before the walk revolved around highlighting some of the native animal species which can be found in these woodlands, which include birds such as Crested Shrike-tit and Owlet nightjars, Smooth Frogs, and a host of insects including butterflies, some of which need mistletoe as their caterpillar food plant.

Bryan showing the group a clump of Mat-rush (Lomandra longifolia), another important host plant for butterflies in the reserve

The weather was perfect with calm and sunny conditions during the entire walk. At various stops along the trail Dean explained the ecological importance of mistletoe, how epicormic shoots develop at the base and up the trunk of eucalypts but remain hidden under the bark in readiness to sprout after fire, and the role fire should play in the management of our natural reserves to help keep the trees understorey plants and animals in balance.

Dean pointing out the epicormics buds (or sharp bumps) which can be found beneath the shed bark on this dead gum tree

We would like to thank Dean for accepting the invitation to be guest speaker, our friends at both ABC South East and ABC South West for their help promoting the event, and all those who attended particularly those who travelled from further away. It was a privilege to host such an expert and bring together a large group of passionate people of our region.

These projects are supported by Natural Resources South East (RUEC) and the Australian Government (RUEC and Community Nursery).

Bryan Haywood