Nature’s works of art kindle joy

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One of my favourite tree photos. Sally Abbott Smith from Glenburn submitted this photo in a competition several years ago, run by the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority. Photo by various

We tend not to think about them much — good old gum trees.

We had a few on the farm when I was growing up. Nothing flash, just a few scattered around.

When I asked Dad what they were, he invariably replied, “box trees — yeah, box trees”, so I always thought that if I didn’t know what kind of eucalyptus tree it was, it would be a box tree.

Not a bad bet on the northern Victorian plains, but of course there are many varieties of box trees.

I never gave them much regard in my younger years; they weren’t good for climbing, didn’t seem to provide much shade (a bit too sparse in the canopy) and when they fell over they usually took a fence or two with them.

But there is something significant about them that I can’t quite put my finger on.

Even though I walked past them every day on the dairy farm, they represented something iconic in the landscape.

Something stoic, that reflected Dad’s approach to life, not unlike the stereotyped Aussie farmer — battling the elements, unwavering in the stiff winds, standing tall in the hot sun but bending in the winter storms, so they didn’t break.

My recognition of these mighty spirits was kindled many years later when I inspected an arborist’s plan of the Goulburn Valley Hwy in Shepparton.

He had gone to the trouble of identifying and assessing each gum tree in the path of a major highway redevelopment just outside the Shepparton News office.

To me they looked like a motley collection of gum trees that would soon fall foul of the highway excavators.

I looked at the arborist’s plan laid out on a huge white sheet, and he reeled off the descriptions: “This one, yellow box, maybe 200 years old; this one, 200 to 300 years old ...”

Wow, I had new-found respect for these old stagers — not too pretty, but in much better condition than I will be in 200 years.

To the road-makers’ credit, the gum trees are still standing and in a few places the council and state government routed the service road around the old girls, so they could stay for another 50 or 100 years, I hope.

For the love of trees

Sunday, July 31 is National Tree Day, founded in 1996, so we would like to hear of anyone’s experience with a favourite tree.

You can send your contributions (a photo would be nice) via email to or post it to: Country News editor, PO Box 204, Shepparton, 3632.

It doesn’t have to be a gum tree.