Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Yellow Gum and trousers hanging by a thread


A generally erect, straight trunked, stately tree, with mottled bark sometimes similar to that of River Red Gum, but more likely to have a cream/yellow tinge, and to grow a little uphill from wet areas.


That's how Bernard Slattery, Ernie Perkins and Bronwyn Silver describe the Yellow Gum, Eucalyptus leucoxylon, in their guide to the Eucalypts of the Mount Alexander Region. In case you are wondering, the Mount Alexander Region is Castlemaine and surrounding goldfield country, and that's where I met Ernie Perkins.

Ernie died last year and the little booklet is dedicated to him, 'teacher, botanist, field naturalist (1934-2016). Back in the day, Mr Perkins taught me chemistry at Castlemaine High School. He was also my tennis partner on weekends. More relevant to this booklet, however, I remember his A4 guides to the wattles, eucalypts and other bits and pieces of nature to be found around Castlemaine. They were always simple, succinct and accurate.

This book, published by the Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests includes 12 common species and eight 'less common' species of Eucalyptus. In a section that Ernie must have written, is a guide to where you can find these species, and other eucalypts, in the streets of Castlemaine.

For example, my feature eucalypt, the Yellow Gum, can be found in McEwan St (outside numbers 4-6), Wheeler Street (outside number 7 - my grandparents used to live at 17), as an avenue planting in Elizabeth Street, in a copse in Yates Street, and in Kaweka Flora Reserve. 

The book reminds me of Leon Costerman's pocket guide to the trees of Victoria, first published when I was six (1966) and reprinted squillions of times since then (you can still buy it). In fact Leon very kindly provided his drawings to be included this Mount Alexander guide.


As to Yellow Gum, the variant found around Mount Alexander and generally more or less north of the Divide (even popping into NSW) is subspecies pruinosa. There are others in Victoria: subspecies connata, clustered around Port Philip Bay; subspecies bellarinensis, clustered, appropriately, around Geelong; subspecies leucoxylon in mostly western Victoria and across into South Australia, but reaching out a little into the north-east of our State; subspecies megalocarpa just popping into Victoria from South Australia, around Nelson, but widely planted for its big fruits and colourful red flowers; and, phew... subspecies stephanie in the deserts of western Victoria.

The differences are to do with a waxy bloom (or not) on the buds and fruits, plus the size of fruits, flower cluster stalks and leaves. Take a look at the key in VicFlora.


I can't confirm the nomenclature of the sprig featured in this post but I suspect it was modeled from a specimen of subspecies megalocarpa, or the difficult to classify cultivar 'Rosea'. It is made from thread, by embroidery wizard Lynne Stone. Lynne presented me with this artwork as a gift in thanks for opening 'A Secret Garden', the annual exhibition for the Embroiderers Guild Victoria back in October 2016.


I was able to spring a surprise on the group by revealing a set of Mueller's braces. Not quite holding up my trousers but, as the experts say, 'the braces are on fine canvas displaying floral motifs in cross stitch, in Berlin needlework style'. Sadly no Yellow gum in the motif, but at least I don't have try and identify the subspecies.

3 comments:

Patrick Deasey said...

Are they actually Baron V.M's old braces?. Were they found binding together an old collection of pressings from the field?

Tim Entwisle said...

Very much the real thing but I think we were bequeathed them from his family rather than finding them wrapped around some collections. The latter would have a certain romance about it though! Tim

Ross said...

You definitely need to get some of those fine old high waisted heavy strides that my grandfather wore to do those braces justice. Ideally they will stop just short of your pits.