Thursday, April 19, 2012

Brush Box

Lophostemon confertus
Logging is an essential industry. We all use timber products - and have been able to get them too cheap. If we had to replace all the trees we used in a lifetime it would cost us so much more than we really pay.

It has had some effects on our local vegetation, of course. Not only have many good timber trees been removed. Forest management has also resulted in the removal of old trees which are of no value to us, and were cleared to make way for healthy regrowth. The result is that it can take us by surprise to see old relatives of our familiar trees.
I recently had the change to visit the famous “Wishing Tree” at O’Reilly’s.

There must once have been Brush boxes of these proportions in our district, but I have never come across any of them.
 This hardy species is common along the Great Dividing Range. It belongs on the edges of rainforests, and if we see it growing naturally, we know something about the amount of rainfall that is received by that piece of land.
It is such a useful tree that it deserves to be more widely planted. It makes a beautiful specimen for parks and large gardens, and is used as a street tree in Toowoomba. It is too large for the average suburban garden, though, and shouldn’t be planted near underground drainage pipes.

It is the only non-eucalypt whose leaves are eaten by koalas. The flowers are a good nectar source for bees, producing a good pale honey, and its seeds are eaten by rosellas. And of course it has very good timber - hard, durable, and particularly suited for heavy construction and flooring.
Nurseries sell plants which produce red new leaves, but our local variant has bright yellow ones. (I once traipsed far across country to discover what that lovely "flowering" tree was.)

  In fact, the spring flowers are white with a lovely form. The name “lophostemon” means “crest-stamen”, and with a little imagination you can see the resemblance between its stamens, and the horsehair crest on the helmets of ancient Greek warriors.

Cutting down of brush box trees often results in coppice regrowth - a useful technique where a tree is too large for its site but a grove of smaller trees would be welcome. It’s also a way to produce a cut-and-come-again firewood tree, for those who like to get their winter warmth from a renewable resource.

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