[Extract from my Executive Director's Report in the latest issue of The Gardens, the magazine of the Friends of The Gardens. To read more, join the Friends! www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/friends]
....In March this year [Bob Beale] told the story of the two Forest Red Gums above the Opera House, and grumbled (quite rightfully) that there was not even a plaque in recognition of their history. He cited an opinion that these trees were likely to be more than 300 years old. Another story circulating a few years ago suggested they may have been planted by Bennelong.
The two trees are certainly beautiful and a poignant connection with the forested promontories of Port Jackson, but are more likely to be seedlings from the early nineteenth century. They may be regrowth from older stems, but it’s likely we’d see more evidence of this with the original trunks at least partly visible in such shallow soil... [further arguments provided in support of age]
...Our guided walks feature them regularly, but I’m pleased to report that signage is now in production for all remnant trees, or their descendents, in the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain. There are a couple of Forest Red Gums on the eastern side that also fit this bill.
...we treasure our indigenous trees as we do the 3000 planted specimens. Suckering Swamp Oaks, at the high-tide mark of the original shoreline, are already signposted as part of the original flora. And as you may have read in the Sydney Morning Herald, a nearby deceased Forest Red Gum will be sculpted into a memorial to the Cadigal.
When ancient survivors come to the end of their lives we collect seed as a genetic link to the original trees. We did this for the first street trees in Sydney, the row of Swamp Mahoganies (Eucalyptus robusta) along Macquarie Wall. Sydney Red Gums (Angophora costata) grown from local seed have been planted between Henry Lawson Gate and Farm Cove.
Over on Mrs Macquaries Point we’ve replanted local species since 1990. As we approach our bicentenary in 2016 there are plans to return more of this Point to natural sandstone and flora. Of course we’ll always conserve the spectacular views of that other icon on the end of Bennelong Point.