Saturday, September 1, 2012

Toowoomba’s Oldest Tree?

Ficus rubiginosa  (Ficus obliqua var. petiolaris)
Toowoomba botanist John Swarbrick has drawn my attention to this magnificent tree. It is a “Scrub Fig”, and can be found in Meredith Crescent.  
 This part of Toowoomba was once part of the garden of Carl Hartmann (1833 - 1887), a noted Toowoomba botanist, explorer and nurseryman who is now best known for his involvement in the establishment of our city’s original Botanic Gardens in Lindsay Street.
Hartmann cultivated 22 of his 40 acres, creating a magnificent garden of his own which contained plants from all over the world. It became a favourite destination for Toowoomba’s weekend picnickers. There was even a bus service which brought people from town for their pleasant day out. Some of the specimens he planted can still be found in the streets and private gardens in that part of Toowoomba.

The fig is an unusually large one of its kind, so it’s more than likely that it was a mature plant at the time Hartmann cleared the land. Much change has happened around it, including a lowering of the soil level. The tree still stands on a mound which would have been the original height of the ground.

Growing in the tree are several large, old blood vines Austrosteenisia blackii. Which probably also pre-date European settlement of the area.

Most of their little leaves are up in the canopy, mixed with the larger leaves of the fig.

However the odd few sprout lower down, and have enabled us to identify the vine, which still grows naturally in Redwood Park, and may have once been common in the Toowoomba City area itself.

Blood vines produce large panicles of deep red flowers in late spring. They would be a sight worth seeing, on such a large vine as this one. We must keep an eye out for them!
Meanwhile, the tree is producing a large crop of figs, which will provide a feast for our native birds.

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