Im sure Im not the only one that’s well & truly over the annual Australia day/ change the date debate. Why not just make it the last Friday in January so the date changes every year? That way everyone can have a long holiday weekend & nobody gets offended. Easter moves around & God doesnt seem to care? Perhaps all those Aboriginal activists & politicians & journalists could come up here & look at the TinTs instead of protesting year after year – might actually learn something about this culture. As gomeroi/euahlayi man Darryl Ferguson from Lightning Ridge has told me a few times now, he gets most of his knowledge from white farmers. There are places along the murra-manaarr paleo channel that make your hair stand on end. I believe the ‘old clever people’ are still here just in a different form. Like the river itself that went underground, they linger in the trees.
I have been pondering the TinTs lately (always actually) & wondering if it’s the host trees response to injury that helps the guest get established. When you cut a chunk out of the trunk of a box tree you are essentially creating an artificial crotch. If you then insert a seed or seedling immediately does the chemical & hormonal reaction of the box tree aid the survival of this guest? Unlike animal bodies that try to expel foreign matter, do some trees, eucalypts in particular & the bimblebox specifically, nurture the intruders? Crotches are also formed when you cut branches off the tree or remove a limb from a multi trunked tree. As you can see below the centre trunk has been cut with a steel axe & the guest wilga has grown beside it not inside the trunk as is more common. By trying to limit or repair the damage does the host send sugars to that area to stimulate the growth of the other trunks & inadvertently the guest too? The guest could be the opportunistic beneficiary of the box trees natural defences. This period of ‘receptivity’ may be brief & taken advantage of by the old clever people to create the spectacular Trees in Trees.
Crotches can also be created naturally by branch fall such as this one in a bumble in coolabah TinT. The tiny wilga guest you see here has colonised the coolabah naturally.
Whereas the bumble has been planted in the centre of the tree by the Gomeroi who used to live here.
The wilga has not grown despite 3 La Nina years & will not survive much longer. Wilgas & Peach bush trees, despite being the most common box tree guests, do not live in coolabah trees. This is because THEY WERENT PLANTED THERE for whatever cultural reason-probably to do with totems.
There are thousands & thousands of eucalypt crotches here available for colonisation by other trees species but only a tiny proportion are occupied. Jen Silcock says this “ …Hmm, yes thousands more potential sites than those with guests …the older the hollow or crotch the greater chance for guests to establish. Perhaps some hollows have been the site of numerous guests over the years, as the old ones have died and been replaced with new ones? Either way the % occupancy of hollows by guests at Gingie and surrounds, while relatively low, is far higher than anywhere else that we know of…”
Jen is assuming that the host eucalypt routinely outlives its guests. I think for some guest species – rosewood (Alectryon oleifolius) & peach bush (Ehretia membranifolia) – this isn’t true. This spectacular 3 in 1 tree on the southern neighbour is the perfect example.
The box host has been dead for sometime but the rosewood guest has only died in the last 6 months or so ( hard to tell if rosewoods are truly dead or just regrouping their resources for a 2nd coming ) The peach bush is thriving & looks a similar age to the dead twin rosewood guest. From this example it appears that the peach bush has out lived/ out competed twin guest & host.
Apart from this 3in1 tree, the hosts that are failing are those that have been rung in the 1880s or poisoned in the 1980s. Dead eucalypts stand for many years & when they fall such as this one below they lie on the ground for many more years still. The unknown dead guest is rotting away but being off the ground the wood borers & whiteants have trouble getting to it.
The age of this double dead is unknown as are these 2 wilga TinTs in the same camp. The 1st TinT is huge with the guest wilga taking over completely & killing its box host – something you rarely see.
The 2nd wilga TinT is about 15 metres away from this one & while both host & guest are alive they are very small. This is the first time Ive ever seen kidney weed (Dichondra) living in a tree crotch. This groundcover is a dead giveaway of campsites & is often found growing around the base of TinTs.
I think the double dead & the 2 wilga TinTs at this camp were created around the same time. The growth rate of both the hosts & their guests being determined by their access to water nutrients & sunlight. The small TinT above is among other spindly box trees while the double dead & big wilga TinTs are away from competition. The underground river is the wild card here – did the double dead die because the paleo channel shifted? Did the people move camp for the same reason? There are many camps in this location & many old TinTs especially with peach bush guests. Were they popular guests because of their extreme longevity or some other quality? Does it even matter now – or will climate change become so extreme by the end of this century we may wish we had bothered to find out.