Many river red gums are hundreds of years old

HISTORIC: Roger Thomas believes this recently broken river red gum, found in a dry swamp near Clunes, could be 300 or more years old.
HISTORIC: Roger Thomas believes this recently broken river red gum, found in a dry swamp near Clunes, could be 300 or more years old.

Among the largest and oldest trees found locally are river red gums. 

There are some very old specimens whose ages are difficult to determine. Tree ages are often over-exaggerated, but some of the larger local red gums would be 400 or more years old.

As far as determining ages of red gums is concerned, all experts seem to agree that a thicker girth indicates an older tree. The following is not definitive, but it provides an approximate guide.

Roughly, a girth of two metres indicates an approximate age of 150-200 years, while a four-metre girth indicates 300-400. A six-metre girth could indicate a tree 450-600 years old.

The photo today shows a recently-broken old red gum tree in a dry swamp near Clunes. Every branch of this tree has fallen, but regenerating sprouts can be seen on its trunk, indicating its tenacity. 

Its girth was not measured, but some idea of its size can be gauged by the numerous 40cm roots at ground level.

Going by the figures mentioned above, this tree would be 300 or more years old, and it intends to keep going. 

Other ancient red gums occur at the same spot, several of them with larger trunks and therefore of greater age.

There is one at Talbot with a 15-metre girth, which – at my estimate – could be about 1000 years, or even older.

Handsome river red gums line the shore at Lake Burrumbeet. Some have died off, leaving stark but apparently strong skeletons that remain valuable as perching and sometimes nesting places for birds.

On the lake’s southern shoreline are 150 or more impressive living trees, again gradually dwindling in number. Fortunately, some of them are fenced, which will help protect their roots from compaction.

In a competition of large trees many years ago, a number of red gums were entered. A tour of them revealed several venerable specimens, many of them which had been family favourites for generations. 

Such trees deserve not only admiration and respect, but also protection.

Any with a girth of more than three metres have been present for longer than European settlement. We owe it to them, and to our descendants, to allow regeneration of the next generation of red gums nearby.

BLACK COCKATOOS

Almost 300 yellow-tailed black cockatoos have been reported around pines in the Mount Xavier area recently.

A similar number was reported at Linton a few months ago.

The flying birds sometimes carry – and occasionally drop – hard green pine cones.

This creates a potential danger for anyone who is underneath.