A eulogy for the free-standing gum

The gigantic dead red gum at the end of the rows of cabernet sauvignon vines at Grace Farm.

Even though we place high conservation value on all of the native vegetation it is inevitable that free-standing gum trees will occasionally die due to historical disturbance of the bush under-story and the ensuing decline in biodiversity. The natural plant diversity in undisturbed forest is paramount for tree health because the suite of beneficial fungi and other microbes which keep tree roots healthy are most numerous when many different plants co-exist in the same area. This is one of the reasons that the Mair family have planted so many native seedlings on the Grace Farm property. It is a way of increasing plant diversity in the hope of stimulating the symbiotic relationships which sustain ecosystems. Regeneration of the bush also has the flow on effect of encouraging native animals back to the landscape.

As is the case in nature, when a tree dies it often provides a refuge for native animals. The large red gum pictured above has been left standing to provide bird nesting sites in the high hollow limbs. Furthermore, the significant number of branches that fell to the ground were piled up to provide sites for reptiles and mammals to access.

Many of the animals that have been observed on the farm can potentially benefit from the retention of such trees or habitat. These animals include red-tailed black cockatoos, Baudin's and Carnaby's white-tailed black cockatoos (both listed as endangered), pink galahs, yellow ring-necked or "28" parrots. mulga parrots, western rosellas, sacred kingfishers, boobook owls, Gould's (racehorse) goannas, king skinks, dugite snakes, south west carpet pythons
and various native mammals.

Although it is very sad to lose these majestic trees it is consoling to think that their retention in the landscape can benefit the environment.

Tim Quinlan - Viticulturist