After years of admiring and speculating about the culturally modified trees (CMTs) here I have finally gotten around to photographing & geotagging most of them. I spend many days out in the paddocks mustering and the trees have become old friends. CMTs are a very important link to our indigenous cultures and their past practices. Surviving west of Walgett with our harsh and unpredictable climate is tough but the Kamilaroi, Euahlayi & Wailwun managed their environment and thrived.
The people that lived here between the Barwon and the big Warrambool were the Kamilaroi aka Gamilaraay or Gomeroi. Together with the neighbouring nation the Euahlayi aka Yuwaalaraay or Yularoi they shared kinship and language and access to the Narran Lake . There is a wonderful account of the lifestyle & language of Aboriginal people in this area published 1905 in Katie Langloh Parker ‘s – The Euahlayi Tribe : A study of Aboriginal life in Australia – that you can download for free from project Gutenberg .The forward by Andrew Lang is better ignored for its racist 18th century views but Katie’s work as an amateur ethnographer is remarkable. There is some more information on Katie’s life by Jane Singleton that you can request online – What Katie Did by Jane Singleton (what-katie-did.com)
This website has grown in size & scope over the last 5 years and my understanding has grown with it. Its been a journey in the getting of knowledge from Aboriginal friends like Allan Tighe & Rhonda Ashby and ecologists like Jen Silcock & Russell Fairfax. From my original fascination with scarred trees I moved on to ringtrees & then the trees growing in other trees I call TinTs. There is so much to learn here that the lack of academic interest in this country brings me many tears of frustration. Definitely no intellectual rigor in Australian universities – intellectual rigor mortis perhaps? By the time the botanists/ archaeologists/ ethnologists wake up to the possibilities of the old camps and CMTs here I will be long gone & they wont have access. I say this to those who should be helping here – in a society full of people who couldnt care less – you should care more.
To appreciate the huge array of styles and dimensions of scarring you see on this website you need to understand the scarring process itself. When a tree is struck by an axe ( originally made of stone ) the damage leaves an area of exposed sapwood which dries out and dies. This is called a “dryface“ and the often the bark won’t grow back but the tree tries to seal the wound with new tissue called “overgrowth“. This growth is faster along the sides then the top and bottom of the scar and the dryface appears elongated. Due to dieback and the uneven healing process these scars often look nothing like the original wound. Another feature of living scar trees is the “ epicormic sprouting “ which happens when the flow of hormones from the crown of the tree is disrupted by the fresh wound. These hormones act to prevent the tree branching out all over so when they stop flowing new shoots quickly appear at the bottom of the scar. This is how I often spot a very old scar tree …these ancillary branches can be very thick indicating how long ago the scar was made. I have a few very old box trees with massive scars on two sides with only small strips of intact tree in between keeping them alive.
Other information available on scar trees is by Andrew Long… Aboriginal scarred trees in NSW – a field manual produced by the then NSW Dept. of Environment and Conservation. However I have been unable to find explanations in print for the weirder tree manipulations & the concentrations of TinTs around campsites & along the trade routes /songlines . The ringtrees here denote reliable water sources but this doesnt hold true for other Aboriginal nations. Due to the presence of an underground river (the old Barwon river pre last ice age) that is close to the surface at places marked by redgum trees & wells, this land probably supported a large permanent/ semi permanent population of riverland refugees. If you share an interest in Natural or Aboriginal history you could read Bruce Pascoe’s “Dark Emu Black seeds” on agriculture in pre-colonial Australia.
So I dedicate this website to Freddie Walford, an Aboriginal stockman we had who taught me some bush lore and like many of his people, died too young. I will always remember his natural affinity with livestock, his love of polocrosse and his quiet humour and grace. He never spoke much about the scar trees but did say if I was ever to see bones inside an old coolabah, I should go as fast as possible in the opposite direction! If you want to share photos of information about scar trees you are welcome to email me – [email protected] or ring Allan Tighe 0447069958. This website aims to increase knowledge and record these trees but not to display any pictures or information that is culturally secret or sacred.