Alpine Nature Walk

Primarily a walk for the summer – in fact it was brisk with snow still on the tops when I was there last November. As we’re all still holidaying at home, keep this short, roadside loop walk in mind (20 minutes, according to DOC) if you are going through the Lewis Pass in the South Island, not only to break up a long drive on fairly lonely roads, but also because it’s an easy stroll and rather lovely!

The formed track takes visitors through alpine wetland and beech forest. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Lichen on tree trunks at the tarn end of the walk. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Plant Stories: The Separation Tree

I’ve recently had access to an historic photo album from the Vege Grower’s side of the family and came across an interesting snapshot. The photographer was the family link and he and one of the chaps in the snap were on their way to New Zealand, the photographer to settle.

The photographer, who had served in Britain’s brand-new RAF during World War 1, kept a record of his sea voyage to New Zealand via the Suez Canal, Aden, India, Sri Lanka and Australia. Some of the images are named, but many just indicate the country and year.

However, this one, thanks to the sign on the tree, reveals that it was taken in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

The Separation Tree, Melbourne, August 1920.

Alas, the Separation Tree is no longer with us, falling prey to human vandalism – ring-barked twice – leading to its removal in 2015.

The 24m Eucalyptus camaldulensis (river red gum), which had been minding its own business for about 400 years before being attacked, was one of the few trees left in the gardens that pre-dated European arrival and was one of two river red gums that bordered the swampy billabong which later became part of the Ornamental Lake.

It was the place where, on November 15, 1850, superintendent Charles La Trobe announced that what is now Victoria would separate from New South Wales. When that news reached Melbourne on November 11, 1850 it was the cause of great rejoicing with fireworks, illuminations, street parades, games, thanksgivings and three public holidays! The new Crown Colony of Victoria was formally proclaimed on July 1, 1851. 

As well as the shield-type sign seen in the photo, a plaque was added to the base of the tree in 1951 to mark the beginning of the second century of self-government in Victoria. The plaque remains, as does a spike that was embedded in the tree to show the high-water mark from an 1860s flood.

At the time of the tree’s removal in 2015, the gardens’ director Tim Entwistle said three offspring of the Separation Tree – planted 70, 16 and 11 years ago – were on the nearby Tennyson lawn and seedlings from the tree had been sent to 20 schools. The Botanic Gardens’ nursery was also propagating trees and sending them throughout Victoria. One sapling went into the gardens of the state Parliament in Melbourne.