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Time for another gum

September 20, 2009
Sydney Blue Gum on the Hastings River

Sydney Blue Gum on the Hastings River

This is, I believe, a Sydney Blue Gum (Eucalyptus saligna) though I could also be wrong as I’m very much an amateur when it comes to tree identification. It does look like: they can be found up and down the east coast of New South Wales, of which the Hastings River is part, and they can grow to 60 or more metres tall which this one certainly seems to be aiming for. Whatever it is, I couldn’t resist photographing it. It rather dwarfs Mr Gums below doesn’t it?

Blue Gums are apparently the trees referred to in Henry Lawson’s 1919 poem, “Chatswood”:

And a little wood was on it, and the trees were tall and good,
And his young wife used to dream there, so he called it “Chattie’s Wood”.

“Chattie’s Wood” has long since gone, and shops are standing in a row
Where the young wife went a-dreaming in a the days of long ago,

Chattie was apparently Charlotte Harnett, the second wife of Richard Hayes Harnett, a North Shore Sydney landowner in the 1860s and one-time Mayor of Willoughby, and she did wander the Blue Gum High Forest of Chatswood West. The trees have long disappeared (from there anyhow) and some suggest that Lawson played a little loose with the specific details of their story but  it is generally agreed that Chattie’s Wood is the origin of the name of the Sydney suburb of Chatswood.

Another poem, “Blue Gum Forest” (1976) by Roland Robinson, was also inspired by these trees:

The blue gums soar, naked
smooth, to where they over arch …

This year Australian composer Matthew Orlovich set this poem to music for a capella choir. I’d love to hear it one day. Anyhow, these are just two examples I found by doing some quick research. It seems that while the Sydney Blue Gum may have made way for shops in Chatswood, they still survive – in both physical and imaginative form. Long live the gum!

11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2009 18:42

    Sad that it’s on its own, Sue. A tree like that should be surrounded by friends….

    • whisperinggums permalink*
      September 20, 2009 22:10

      Too true … and there was a little stand of about 5 or so about half kilometre down the road but this one was alone. Still a lone gum like this one can be very majestic can’t it!

  2. September 21, 2009 01:36

    Ooh, thanks for a lovely post. I can spot a gum tree at 20 paces — they are few and far between in this neck of the woods!

    I went to Madeira last year for a week’s holiday and we arrived very late at night — something like 11pm — and the first thing that I noticed was the oh-so beautiful smell of eucalyptus in the air. Turns out most of Madeira is covered in gum trees. I was delighted! It felt like I was at “home”.

    • whisperinggums permalink*
      September 21, 2009 09:00

      LOL kimbofo. I can’t imagine that you would find many in England – even though some clearly do grow in cool temperate climates like Tasmania! I have noticed that gums have been planted in places with mediterranean-like climates such as southern California, south Africa and southern Europe. I’m guessing Madeira has that sort of climate? Was it a nice place to visit?

      • September 24, 2009 04:39

        There’s a few around. I know where they are because I occasionally go nab a few leaves, squish them up and then inhale them!

        Yes, Madeira was lovely… gorgeous gardens. In fact, they call it the “floating garden of the Atlantic”. I wrote a few posts about it on my kimbofo blog: http://kimbofo.typepad.com/journal/madeira/

  3. September 21, 2009 11:15

    It’s hard to tell from the photo, but if it is a Sydney blue gum, it must be an awfully young one. They grow very fast, and they usually don’t have branches that low (though a few do). One usually imagines great, soaring, silvery-blue trunks that go up like telephone poles. But if it’s a baby, then perhaps it would still be a bit short and branchy.

    • whisperinggums permalink*
      September 21, 2009 11:50

      Yes, I know what you are saying which is why I’m not 100% sure. They can be branchy, though, as you say, and I wonder if ones on their own rather than in a forest may have more of a tendency to be branchy. My little Eucalypts book has a few photos and one is very branchy. I suspect it is on the young side. But, if anyone can point me in another direction – there are so many gums out there – I’m happy to update!

      • September 22, 2009 10:58

        So many gums, indeed — and the very fact that the number is usually given as a range (something like 650 to 700) shows that even the experts aren’t always certain what they’re looking at.

        But I’m betting you’ve got it with that “on its own” idea — it seems very reasonable that that would make a difference in the branchiness.

  4. September 22, 2009 11:00

    I will add that, for reasons I’ve never quite understood, the very site of a eucalypt gladdens my heart beyond measure. I have loved them since I first encountered them in southern California (all transplants from Australia, of course). So I love the photo, whatever it turns out to be.

    • September 22, 2009 11:00

      And I should proofread before hitting submit. The very SIGHT of them…

      • whisperinggums permalink*
        September 22, 2009 11:16

        JUST AS WELL – as the daughter of an editor/proofreader I would have been horrified if you hadn’t added your correction – LOL. It’s funny how you can fall in love with something that isn’t familiar to your background isn’t it? I loved seeing the gums in So Cal – despite the fact that many were pruned (who’s prune a gum I ask?) so some looked very weird (almost unrecognisable). Anyhow, whatever the reasons, I’m glad you share my love of gums.

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