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Australia’s Remarkable Trees

Produced by: 
The Miegunyah Press
Author: 
Richard Allen & Kimbal Baker
ISBN: 
9780522856699 (hbk)
Synopsis: 
Hardback, 254 pages, $60

There is a proverb that says “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now”. This quotation doesn’t come from Australia's Remarkable Trees, but it is very apt as it demonstrates the link between Australia’s history and its trees.

Australias_Remarkable_trees.jpg

Richard Allen combines his excellent narrative to accompany the stunning photography by Kim Baker as they explore the extraordinary lives of 50 of Australia's oldest, largest and most unusual trees.

Included in the book are Australia’s famous trees like the ‘Dig Tree’ at Cooper’s Creek, the ‘Ada Tree’ in the Yarra State Forest, the Turkish Pine at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance and the River Red Gum at Springton in the Adelaide Hills that had a hollowed out middle so large as to accommodate a young immigrant’s family for many years.However, it is a book not simply dedicated to famous and curious trees, as it also includes generic examples of rare trees, like the Wollemi Pine and all the favourites from the giant Karri and Mountain Ash to the romantic Tasmanian Myrtle.

The book is divided into six broad categories – Magnificent Natives, Old Curiosities, Foreign Invaders, Historic Trees, Private Trees and Local Giants.

The photography is captivating and worth the price of the book alone, but the photographs are enhanced by the delightfully informative writing of Richard Allen. Woven into the text are some informative facts such as the Bunya Pine (which is not a pine at all but a member of the Araucariaceae family) which has cones the size of footballs and weighing up to ten kilograms – a tree to be avoided in late summer when the cones can drop unexpectedly from the high branches. There is the Golden Elm that grows in a small reserve on the corner of Alexander Avenue and Punt Road. Planted in 1938, it is now such an icon it even has its own entry in Melbourne’s street directory.

Perhaps the book’s most controversial statement concerns the example of a Karri in Warren National Park, some twelve kilometres south west of Pemberton in Western Australia. Allen goes out on a limb (!) by suggesting that this may quite possibly be Australia’s most beautiful tree. Judging from Baker’s photos, they may have a good case. It has convinced this reviewer to go and see for himself! In summary, this is an important book as it captures a very important part of Australia’s natural heritage, so much of which has disappeared due to rapacious industrial logging that sadly still goes on today. Buy it, read it and be inspired to see the trees for real.

Reviewed by Lawrie Hanson