Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mountain Ash

Mountain Ash

Tall, extraordinarily tall, scraping the forest sky, tree tops so far above you that you cannot see where they end. Trunks straight and ramrod rigid - straight up. The beautiful eucalypt known as the “Mountain Ash” is the world’s tallest flowering plant, the tallest of the eucalypts, and - IMHO - has a strong claim to be the most beautiful as well. A grove of these forest skyscrapers inspires deep breathes and a quiet awe.

The straight trunks seem vigorous, and the impression is not wrong. The Mountain Ash grows one metre per year for the first 50 years of its life, and reaches well over 100 metres tall.

And then there’s the very old, venerable specimens. Measure the girth of a tree at chest height. 12mm of girth equals one year of growth.

How old?
The same tree

In the beautiful Otway Forest in Southern Victoria, the trees receive the highest rainfall in the state, at over 2 metres each year (2000 mm). There, in a cool temperate rainforest 500 metres above sea level, the forest has been rehabilitated in the wake of the loggers.

Forest walks

Old logging paths are now forest walks, leading to the Otway Fly, a steel walkway that lets you wander through the tree tops. You can look down on Myrtle Beeches, a species 70 million years old; and Soft Tree Ferns (species 150 million years old). The mosses and lichens that grow over the trees that die are even older. The cycle of nutrients constantly revolves, from forest seedlings to decay which eventually feeds the forest soil.

The Otway Fly

Walking in the tree tops

You can look down on the Soft Tree Ferns, which open like umbrellas below you, collecting all manner of debris and litter which nourishes them. Possums sometimes nest in their crowns.

Soft Tree Ferns

But for all those that you can look down upon, even at the highest point (47 metres) you must still look up to see the magnificent Mountain Ash.

Mountain Ash forest...reminds me of something...

Foyer of Australia's Parliament House
...reminds me of something....

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