Eucalypts north of Ballarat

Excursion Report 6 July 2014

Eight field nats left Gillies Street and the numbers swelled to 13 in the low cloud and drizzle at the base of Mt Warrenheip. We set off through the wet grass to examine the Blue Gums growing on the west-facing slope. We searched for buds and gum nuts on the ground and what we picked up was confounding. Some nuts were sessile on stem (indicating Eucalyptus globulus ssp bicostata Eurabbie), buds found were attached with flattened peducles (E globulus ssp psuedoglobulus Victorian Eurabbie). Further investigation is necessary to find out if the trees have been planted.

Next stop on White Swan Rd. on the south end of Creswick Forest we found a very old, large Manna Gum E viminalis. The trunk was 1.7metres at breast height, the upper part was extensively branched. We speculated as to why it was not felled in the mining days, was it too small then?

Along Codes Forest Rd. a few Southern Blue Gums E globulus ssp globulus had been planted on the edge of a pine plantation. A fallen branch from Messmate E obliqua allowed us to examine the wine-glass shaped gum nuts and leaves which are asymmetrical and oblique at the base.

At the edge of Shuttleworth Rd. were Broad-leaved Peppermint E dives with both mature and juvenile leaves wider than 2cm and up to 15 buds in clusters.

We arrived at Slaty Creek and enjoyed morning tea before examining the eucalypts around the picnic area. Near the creek were Manna Gums. The rounded juvenile foliage of some seedling alerted us to the presence of Candlebark E rubida. Mature specimens had cleaner, whiter bark compared to Manna Gums. A tree with thick, rough bark was a Scentbark E aromaphloia and when the bark was scratched a distinct aroma was detected. Narrow-leaved Peppermint E radiata was identified by its narrow leaves and peppermint smell. Further along Slaty Creek we found Swamp Gum E ovata with wavy edged leaves and funnel-shaped bud caps and fruits.

North of Creswick we stopped along West Berry Rd to see a Snow Gum E pauciflora growing on the volcanic soil. The veins in the leaves run lengthwise. A few out of season flowers were seen on the tree; normal flowering time is early summer.

West of Clunes we looked at some roadside River Red Gum E camaldulensis. On the opposite side of the road were Yellow Gum E leucoxylon. The difference in juvenile foliage is a useful way of distinguishing these trees.

By lunch time at Ginger Adams Eucalyptus Distillery in Dunach Nature Conservation Reserve the sun was shining for a short time. We inspected the well preserved relic from the eucalyptus distillery before looking at the trees in the surrounding Box-Ironbark Forest. Red Box E polyanthemos has characteristic ovate leaves; Yellow Box E melliodora has small narrow leaves; Long-leaved Box E goniocalyx are named because of the long leaves. The dark, deeply fissured bark of Red Ironbark E tricarpa is unmistakable.

At a stop along Fell’s Gully Track we looked for Red Stringybark E macroryncha which usually grows along ridge lines. After consulting a plant identification expert a few days after the excursion and examining the collected gum nuts, we decided the trees were probably Brown Stringybark E baxteri that are common south of Ballarat. At the northern edge of the forest a Yellow Gum was surrounded by seedlings and Grey Box E microcarpa with small fruits were growing in a paddock.

Grey Box Eucalytus microcarpaGrey Box  Eucalyptus microcarpa

Our last stop was on the western side of the Clunes railway station where a row of Sugar Gums E cladocalyx were growing on vacant land. We found the barrel-shaped gum nuts on a fallen branch. Sugar Gums occur naturally in the southern Flinders Ranges of South Australia.

Having seen 20 species of eucalypts during the day we returned to Ballarat by mid afternoon to a welcome of wet roads and showers.

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