Wildflowers, Photos and....River Red Gum - Eucalyptus camaldulensis

Submitted: Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 09:28
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River Red Gums are a familiar and iconic tree seen lining watercourses and on floodplains right across inland Australia. Image Could Not Be Found

River Red Gums are the most widespread eucalypt in Australia, although they do not grow naturally in Tasmania. Eucalyptus camaldulensis var. camaldulensis is found in the Murray-Darling catchment area, while Eucalyptus camaldulensis var. obtusa is found outside the Murray-Darling catchment throughout most of arid central and western Australia and the drier parts of the wet/dry tropics.

They can live up to 600 years or more and can grow to 45 metres tall. The base of the trunk may, rough, grey-brown bark, above that is smooth white or gray bark. The tree has a large, dense crown of leaves. Image Could Not Be FoundBuds are small, about 5mm across opening to white flowers. The bud cap or operculum is drawn out into a point or “beak”.

River Red Gums (and many other eucalypts) have an ominous nickname, "Widow Maker", as they drop their limbs in times of drought. Fatalities have been recorded, hence camping under River Red Gums is not recommended.

The hollows created by the falling of the limbs provide homes to a host of wildlife, making the River Red Gum forests a rich ecosystem along inland waterways.

Aboriginal tribes have long utilised River Red Gum forests for food and shelter. River Red Gum bark was used to construct shelters, canoes and shields. Canoe Trees show where Aborigines peeled long sheets of bark off living trees to make their canoes.

River Red Gum was a valued resource used by the early European settlers for railway sleepers, wharves and mine shaftsand to fuel river boats.
River Red gum is so named for its brilliant red wood. Traditionally used in rot resistant applications like stumps, fence posts and sleepers, more recently it has been used in craft furniture. It is a popular timber for wood turners who prize the large trunk burls for turning into decorative bowls.

River Red Gum is used for commercial hardwood plantations and in the fight against salinity. It is one of the most widely planted eucalypts in the world with plantations established on every continent.

There are many remaining large old River Red Gums, and some of them have a colourful history, some even providing a home for early settlers. Image Could Not Be FoundA giant red gum tree near Orroroo measures more than ten metres in circumference and is estimated to be at least 500 years old.

River Red Gums often appear as stately and beautiful trees. They have been recorded and made famous by photographers such as Harold Casneaux. Artists have also been fascinated by River Red Gums, notably Hans Heysen whose many paintings of River Red Gums in the Flinders Ranges have made this tree justly famous. Image Could Not Be Found

River Reds have so much history and so many uses that I found I had far to much material to put in this post which is already too long. So for a more detailed account and more photos have a look at my River Red Gum Blog.

Now I’m looking forward to seeing your photos of this beautiful and most Australian tree.

Finally a big thank you to those of you who are planning a post on the “Wildflowers, Photos…” theme.

Cheers, and a Happy Christmas,

Val
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Reply By: Wayne (NSW) - Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 09:51

Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 09:51
Val,

Now you have me going through all my photos finding different trees. I am not complaining as I like to take the odd photo of trees.

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(Sorry about the rotation of the first photo)

I would like to wish you and John all the best for the festive season and hope to see you on the track again

Wayne
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 10:17

Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 10:17
Hi Wayne, Thanks for that and good to hear from you. I hadn't heard of the Cazneaux tree until I did the research for this. Its thinned a bit on the top since the 1937 photo - bit like the man in my life!!!

Seasons greetings to you too - maybe we'll catch up on the track again. Still recall our CSR evening. We haven't travelled this year, hopefully will do some more in '11.

Cheers,

Val
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Reply By: Sigmund - Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 10:58

Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 10:58
Thanks for the post.

Yes, it's a great tree.

There's also a Blakely sub-species in Vic. acc to some taxonomies.

The wood varies a lot in colour, figure and density. I like turning the stuff but my sinuses don't. Like Blackwood, it's fairly unstable even when dry and that can make fine joinery difficult.

If you're ever in the Grampians, stop in at the furniture maker in Halls Gap. He does excellent work with it (not the rustic stuff full of black epoxy fill that you often see) out of locally cut trees that are part kiln- and part air-dried.

Where redgum has lain in a bog or wet sand for years it turns black; called Ancient Redgum.
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 17:24

Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 17:24
Hi Sigmund,

Interesting comment about the wood in wet conditions. Will have to watch out for something made from it.

Blakely's red gum (Eucalyptus blakelyi) is found all along the tablelands of NSW and is common where I live. It is quite similar to River Red Gum but the buds are different. Another similar and related species is Forest Red Gum (E. tereticornis) that occurs in NSW and Qld coastal forests - a beautiful tall tree.

Cheers,

Val
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Reply By: Member - Marc Luther B (WA) - Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 11:39

Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 11:39
Hi Val

Thankyou for the wonderful photo's and informative descriptions.

My wife, and some of her family members, were astonished to learn that other Aboriginals used the bark for canoes. Of course our mob are desert people, bark has been used for painting with ochre, and still is occasionally.

I look forward to learning more from you guys.

Cheers
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 17:15

Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 17:15
Hi Mark,

I think it likely that the gums along the watercourses in your area are also River Reds - cant be sure from this distance though!

Cheers,

Val
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Reply By: Dave B ( BHQ NSW) - Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 12:15

Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 12:15
A couple of large RRG's that I have walked around, one is the floodlit one at Wilpena just in front of the Chalet, and that is about 13 metres around, and another one about the same size is between the Telegraph Hotel and the store at Pooncarie.
I have also read somewhere that on a hot day, a large RRG will need about 1000 litres of water. That's why they don't grow too far from a river or creek.

One theory as to why they drop branches off unexpectedly is that, unlike many of our household plants, when they don't get enough water to get them through the day, they don't just wilt over, they drop a huge branch so that they don't have to supply such a huge tree with water.
Maybe the branch they drop constitutes 10% of the tree. so that means it can survive with maybe 10% less water.

I know of 2 occasions where people walking into the Pound at Wilpena have been seriously injured with branches unexpectedly dropping of the RRG's along Wilpena Creek.

Dave
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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 16:22

Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 16:22
Hi Val
Another great Blog and forum post. Here are a few more pictures to add to the file, taken from many locations around Australia, including some very special trees right hear in Clare.

Cheers

StephenImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be FoundImage Could Not Be Found

The above River Red Gum has been dated at over 500 years old and is in the back streets of Clare and I walk past it on the way to work every day. Today when we took this picture,we took a tape measure and the trunk is over 8.5 metres in circumference. The River Red Gum below is located in Pioneer Park in Clare. The founder of Clare, Paddy Gleeson slept under this tree in 1842 and named the town of Clare after his native county in Ireland. Also in 1862, the camel funeral party with the remains of Explorers Burke and Wills rested here on their way back from Innamincka to Melbourne.

Image Could Not Be Found

Cheers

Stephen
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 17:31

Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 17:31
Thanks again Stephen, some lovely shots there. Good to see one of the flower too - they can be a bit elusive. I wonder how many "black stumps" we have in this country?

I'm intrigued by the canoe trees - the scar suggests that the piece of bark would have been too narrow for it to be folded into a canoe, as I have seen film of it done in northern parts of the country. Did they join pieces of bark or were the canoes just very small?

Cheers,

Val
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 18:36

Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 18:36
Hi Val.
I was very lucky with the flower. Since you mentioned that you were going to do this story, I have been inspecting all the tree on the way to work, hoping that there would be some flowers. This tree has only come out today, so I was very lucky.

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I hope that you can read the above, but it states that Australia has 11 such "Black Stump" tree. Paringa's is the biggest, from an 8 metre trunk (Smaller than the tree near our house, but the same size as the Red Gum in Pioneer Park in Clare) and the tree was 600 year old when it fell into the Murray during the 1917 floods, and was later removed as it was a navigation hazard - I wonder why..

The Aboriginals that lived along the Murray only had small canoes, not like those that were used in Northern Australia and used out in the open sea. They used them for fishing and for travelling from one side to the other.

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The above Red Gum on Ral Ral Creek, near Renmark SA has been aged at many of hundreds of years old and the canoe is believed to have been taken more than 200 years ago.

Keep up your great stories.

Cheers

Stephen
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Follow Up By: Sigmund - Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 19:12

Saturday, Dec 18, 2010 at 19:12
Great pics Stephen. Thanks.

The Eu's are a bugger sometimes to get positive ID on. RRG can hybridize with other species, as do other gums. Which seems to defeat the definition of a species.

The authoritative source is the Field Guide to Eucalypts. 3 volumes in hardback. Not quite the book to slip into the back pocket!
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Sunday, Dec 19, 2010 at 11:10

Sunday, Dec 19, 2010 at 11:10
Hi Sigmund,

I agree with your comments about hybrids. I have been involved with growing large numbers of gum trees from seed, and its not uncommon to see hybrids pop up. I have even planted few of them out to see what they grow into. They don't often flower though.

I have had Vol 1 (SE Aust) of Brooker and Kleining for years and have just treated myself to Vol 3 (Northern Aust). Vol 2 which covers the SW part is unfortunately out of print but hopefully will be available mid next year. Also newly out is "Eucalypts" by John Wrigley which covers not just the biological aspects but the uses and cultural significance as well - its well priced too, and a great read.

Cheers,

Val
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Follow Up By: Member - Joe F (WA) - Monday, Dec 20, 2010 at 00:31

Monday, Dec 20, 2010 at 00:31
G'day John ~ Val and Stephen L

I trust you don't mind to much that I have inculded my images of this particular tree.Image Could Not Be Found It is known "colloquially" as the WA Christmas Tree.
I actually do not know much about the species apart from the fact that it is in full bloom in December, the trees can be found in the wheatbelt region of WA.Image Could Not Be Found

Regards :
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Follow Up By: Sigmund - Monday, Dec 20, 2010 at 06:35

Monday, Dec 20, 2010 at 06:35
Info on the WA Xmas tree

http://asgap.org.au/n-flo.html

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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Monday, Dec 20, 2010 at 07:24

Monday, Dec 20, 2010 at 07:24
Sigmund - your link doesn't seem to work. I think you probably intended this one.

Cheers
J and V
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Follow Up By: Sigmund - Monday, Dec 20, 2010 at 08:26

Monday, Dec 20, 2010 at 08:26
Yep. Thanks.
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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Monday, Jan 03, 2011 at 16:49

Monday, Jan 03, 2011 at 16:49
Hi Val

I would like to include a few more pictures of a very old River Red Gum from the Barossa Valley here in South Australia. Known locally as the "Herbig Tree" in the small town of Springton. This tree makes my 8.5 metre tree girth in Clare look small.

In 1855, Johann Friedrich Herbig made this hollow Red Red Gum his home. In 1858 he married and this tree then was the birthplace for the first two of their 16 children. After the birth of the second child in 1860, he built a small pine and pug dwelling 400 yards from this tree.

Across the road from the tree is the a hand made trough, also from a very large Red Gum branch, that he used for watering stock and the well where the water came from.

Cheers

Stephen

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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Monday, Jan 03, 2011 at 22:24

Monday, Jan 03, 2011 at 22:24
Great photos Stephen, and a great story attached to this tree. I wonder how many of us could cope living in a tree hollow for 5 days let alone 5 years! Amazing, certainly shows what the pioneering spirit was all about.

Cheers,

Val
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