• Written by Euan Ritchie, Associate Professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

Sign up to the Beating Around the Bush newsletter here, and suggest a plant we should cover at batb@theconversation.edu.au.


In Dr Seuss’s The Lorax, his titular character famously said:

I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.

In the midst of a global extinction crisis, the Lorax’s call to preserve what is precious couldn’t be more apt. The greatest threat to the survival of species globally continues to be habitat destruction and modification.


Read more: The ring trees of Victoria's Watti Watti people are an extraordinary part of our heritage


A potential and local victim of this ongoing environmental catastrophe is a single tree, and a tree I have a deep personal connection with. The tree I refer to is Bulleen’s iconic 300-year-old river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis).

To me this tree has been a constant in my life. While everything else has changed around me, it has stood there, solid, just as solid as its red gum fibres are known to be.

As a child I fondly remember looking up at this tree in awe, as we’d often stop at the nearby service station on a hot summer’s day to buy a cold drink or ice-cream on the way to Saturday sport, the nearby Birrarung (Yarra River), or my grandmother’s house.


The Conversation

Bulleen’s majestic river red gum

It’s estimated to be approximately 20 metres in height with a canopy spread of 17 metres. And its trunk measures a whopping two metres across.

The tree is thought to be the oldest remnant of a once substantial red gum forest, and was saved by a local resident when the rest of the area was cleared for the construction of a service station.

It now faces destruction, as it is within the preferred path of construction for Victoria’s North East link.


Read more: How I discovered the Dalveen Blue Box, a rare eucalypt species with a sweet, fruity smell


While the measurements of this tree are impressive, the splendour and value for me is that it has survived for so long and, in more recent times, against tremendous odds.

Surviving against all odds

The Bulleen red gum stands beside one of Melbourne’s busiest roads and the immediate area is covered with concrete and bitumen. The tree’s roots and health have therefore been challenged for a long time, and yet this massive red gum stands, as if in defiance of the modern world and the development that has encircled it.

Since this tree has survived for so long, it undoubtedly holds a special connection with so many: the Wurundjeri-willam people of the Kulin Nation, members of Australia’s famed Heidelberg school of artists who lived and worked in the near vicinty, everyday commuters that have driven or walked by or stopped to admire it, or the war verteran Nevin Phillips who once apparently defended it with his rifle against it being chainsawed.

Very old trees such as Bulleen’s river red gum deserve our respect and protection, for these trees have substantial environmental, economic and cultural value. National Trust

Further proof of the value of this tree to so many is that it was awarded The National Trust of Australia’s (Victoria) 2019 Victorian Tree of the Year.

Why we must speak for and save old trees

I grew up near this tree and, like the Lorax, I would like to speak for it. Trees as old as the Bulleen river red gum are now increasingly rare in our world, and beyond their strong personal and cultural values, including in some places as Aboriginal birthing sites, they are tremendously important for other reasons as well.


Read more: Vic Stockwell’s Puzzle is an unlikely survivor from a different epoch


These trees provide shade and help keep our cities cooler, improve our mental health and wellbeing, and store considerable amounts of carbon aiding our fight against climate change.

Perhaps most importantly, under their bark and in their cracks and hollows, they provide homes for many of Australia’s precious but increasingly imperilled native wildlife, including bats, birds, possums and gliders, snakes and lizards, insects and spiders.

These homes are prime wildlife real estate, especially in our big cities, where such large old trees are vanishingly rare but where considerable wildlife, common and threatened, still persists. And yet more could survive with a helping hand from us.

A powerful owl chick in a tree hollow, in outer Melbourne. John White (Deakin University)

As cities like Melbourne continue to grow around the world, there will be more and more cases where arguments of progress are used to justify the further destruction of what nature remains. But progress shouldn’t come at any cost, and in the case of preserving iconic and valuable trees such as Bulleen’s river red gum, it would seem there’s more than enough reasons to ensure this tree’s life and its many values continue.

Perhaps again the wise sage, the Lorax, says it best.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.


Sign up to Beating Around the Bush, a series that profiles native plants: part gardening column, part dispatches from country, entirely Australian.

Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.

Authors: Euan Ritchie, Associate Professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences, Deakin University

Read more http://theconversation.com/this-centuries-old-river-red-gum-is-a-local-legend-heres-why-its-worth-fighting-for-117666

Should all aged-care residents with COVID-19 be moved to hospital? Probably, but there are drawbacks too

COVID-19 is continuing to devastate Victorian aged-care homes, with 1,435 active cases now linked to the sector, and at least 130 residents having died.The question of whether to automatically move re...

Jed Montayre, Senior Lecturer (Nursing), Western Sydney University - avatar Jed Montayre, Senior Lecturer (Nursing), Western Sydney University

how New Zealand got rid of a virus that keeps spreading across the world

On SundaYour heading here, New Zealand will mark 100 days without community transmission of COVID-19.From the first known case imported into New Zealand on February 26 to the last case of community tr...

Michael Baker, Professor of Public Health, University of Otago - avatar Michael Baker, Professor of Public Health, University of Otago

INDUSTRIAL EQUIPMENT BUILT FOR EFFICIENCY

Delivering project outcomes on time and on budget comes down to two things: efficiency and effectiveness of resources utilised. This could not be more true for the mining & resources sector ...

News Company - avatar News Company

We need to Close the Gap on health. But even official dietary advice disadvantages Indigenous people

ShutterstockRecently announced Closing the Gap targets aim to improve the health and well-being of Indigenous people.But if that’s to happen, we need to provide health advice suitable for First ...

Odette Best, Professor, Nursing, University of Southern Queensland - avatar Odette Best, Professor, Nursing, University of Southern Queensland

How should I clean my cloth mask?

ShutterstockFace coverings, such as cloth masks, are mandatory for all Victorians and are being recommended for public use in some other parts of the country.Wearing a face covering helps prevent the ...

Brett Mitchell, Professor of Nursing, University of Newcastle - avatar Brett Mitchell, Professor of Nursing, University of Newcastle

why are Melbourne's COVID-19 numbers so stubbornly high?

Melburnians have now been wearing mandatory face coverings in public for two weeks. Yet Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday announced another grim milestone in Victoria’s second wave of COVID-19 in...

Erin Smith, Associate Professor in Disaster and Emergency Response, School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University - avatar Erin Smith, Associate Professor in Disaster and Emergency Response, School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University

Tested positive for COVID-19? Here's what happens next – and why day 5 is crucial

With cases of COVID-19 on the rise, many Australians are asking: what happens if I test positive? With no known cure and no vaccine, what are my treatment options?Finding trusted answers amid the wide...

Julian Elliott, Executive Director, National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce, and Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University - avatar Julian Elliott, Executive Director, National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce, and Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University

Sweden eschewed lockdowns. It's too early to be certain it was wrong

Per Bengtsson/ShutterstockSweden has become something of a cautionary tale for what happens when you attempt to tackle coronavirus without lockdowns.In The Conversation last week The Grattan Institute...

Andreas Ortmann, Professor, UNSW - avatar Andreas Ortmann, Professor, UNSW

Remote interpreting services are essential for people with limited English — during COVID-19 and beyond

ShutterstockAccording to 2016 Census data, 3.5% of Australians have limited English proficiency.When they’re receiving health care, it’s essential these Australians have access to interpre...

Judy Mullan, Associate Professor, School of Medicine, University of Wollongong - avatar Judy Mullan, Associate Professor, School of Medicine, University of Wollongong



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion