Hi all, below is an email I sent to about 30 CMT contacts this week and have had 3 replies. My job is to bring these trees to public attention. It is for academics & aboriginals to discover the ‘how’ & ‘why’, as I only do the ‘show’. I am trying to create 2 new archives – one for Trees in Trees & one for Ringtrees. Also the tedious job of plotting GPS data on google earth is made frustrating by the American differential. Sometimes the Latitude & Longitude figures are 20 ks out of wack? My tech skills are rudimentary and time limited so this hasn’t gone well. I have been measuring the “hosts” & their “guests” for a few dedicated academics mentioned below but my buggy (side by side) has broken down and Ive been grounded for a week. Things can only get better… Best wishes all XXXX
A short update from murrumanaarr (dragonfly) aka Moramana now known as Gingie Station. Some of you are academics, some in the media, some are simply tree lovers or farmers and some are Aboriginal. Some of you happen to be all of the above but what I think we have in common is a respect for our indigenous heritage. A small fraction of our pre-contact cultural past is preserved on the many culturally modified trees (CMTs) in the murrumaanaar landscape.
Having grown up in the Walgett district, part of a generational farming family, I have long been curious about scarred trees. Cuddie springs, where I first met Jude Field in 1994 unearthing megafauna & artefacts, is part of my mother’s property. I have lived at Gingie since 1987 when I married Charlie Pye & my interest in scarred trees only increased as there are so many here. Riding with kids & mustering the stock brings you up close to these magnificent trees. In 2016 during a local writing school, Steph Dale persuaded me to display my CMT photos on my own website and https://scartrees.com.au/ was born.
Photographing the trees and uploading them onto a web site is one thing. Knowing the original purpose behind bark or wood removal is another. I liken them to flesh wounds that scar over as quickly as possible to keep the bugs out. Some tree species like the Redgum are rapid healers whereas Ironwood & Supplejack don’t really ‘re –bark’ at all. The local Box trees ( Bimble & Black ) retain the original scar shape for a long time & sometimes they are seen with axe marks on the top & bottom of it. Another totally weird thing box trees do is play host to other native trees that are planted and nurtured inside them.
Exactly 3 years ago now I photographed the biggest of these Trees in Trees. The Blackbox host is 4.3 metres around and the Wilga guest has a circumference of 115 cm. After that I used to look out for them mustering as Wilgas have a habit of growing right beside other trees and its hard to see if they have separate trunks. Soon I noticed that not only were Wilgas growing inside boxtrees but Wild orange/bumble, Rosewood/boonery, the odd Quinine and a solitary Gumbie Gumbie (Pittosporum Angustifolium) were too.. Some of the “guests” had died & some of the “hosts” had been poisoned years ago. After some inquiries I was told seeds can drop or pass through birds into eucalypt hollows containing decayed organic matter and germinate there. Seemed a reasonable explanation at the time …
2016 was our only good year since 2012 and we were soon back in drought. If you have looked at the website archive ‘scars in country’ you can see the deterioration in ground cover. Temporary feedlots were established here as well as the leasing and agisting neighbouring land. I soon got acquainted with the neighbour’s paddocks & their CMTs too. Coolibahs and Leopardwoods are more inclined towards inosculation (merging) then boxtrees and I developed an obsession with Ringtrees. There are over 30 on this murrumanaarr land system that I know of – mostly associated with natural water catchments. Box trees were also made into Rings but Ive only ever seen 3. The one I found last week was smack in the middle of a group of 7 Trees in trees (TinTs) all growing within 300 metres of each other!
Now if you had any doubts about the anthropogenic (man-made) nature of these trees in trees I would like you to consider these facts. These 7 newly noticed TinTs & 1 boxtree ring form a corridor leading to a large billabong on the edge a red claypan between the sand hills. One of the TinTs is on the banks of the billabong and about 150 mts from the remnant Redgum wells. The old paleo river is close to the surface in places & the Kamilaroi clans put hollow logs down through the sand to access the water. The early Europeans placed their own wells next to these & shored up the sides with pine. This was the only permanent water away from the rivers & was used here for stock and domestic before the first artesian bore was drilled in 1894. (636 mts)
These 7 new TinTs added to the others Ive seen in the last few years make up about 20. A new “guest” tree found there is the Peach bush (Ehretia membranifolia) which is common in the old camps within the sand lenses. The size of the guests varies greatly with some seemingly too small to be over 150 years old. I suspect that may be the bonsai effect? White settlement began here in the 1840s so by my logic many cultural practises were ending after a generation or 2, say 1870. The gold rush of the 1850s saw most white employees head off to find their fortune. The squatters would then need more Aboriginal labour so reducing traditional activity further. (I’m a farmer remember not a historian so don’t shoot me if I have made wrong assumptions here)
Of the original TinTs, ALL are situated on the old river (paleo river/channel ) or the main road between Walgett & Cumborah, now known as Gingie Rd. This was the original path or songline frequented by travellers on their way to the Narran Lakes via Cumborah where there were permanent springs. Plotted on google earth these 2 lines of TinTs intersect around the homestead here built in 1905. I asked the LLS (local land services) for photos or GPS data of any eucalypts with native trees inside that they say exist, about 6 weeks ago now …
“Although not common Wilga, Rosewood, Wild orange do colonise older trees. The seeds of these trees are transported by birds and sometimes germinate in the decomposed leaf litter accumulated in the forks and hollows of trees. When conditions are right these can grow to mature trees.”
Unfortunately no pics of these “mature” trees have been forthcoming? Still I’m used to being fobbed off by institutions – even getting past the inquiry desk is a major achievement. Sadly this includes our Indigenous public servants as well at the highest level.
Still I live in hope and this rests with 3 local Kamilaroi/ Euahlayi individuals who help fill in the gaps. Allan Tighe, Rhonda Ashby & Jason Wilson have been out to see the TinTs and other CMTs and have abundant cultural knowledge. On the academic side we have Jude Field (Archaeology) who has secured the Dendrochronologist (tree aging) Jonathan Palmer among others to help. Paul Forster is another VIP both for his own knowledge & his contacts among arborists & botanists. He has introduced Jen Silcock a Qld botanist/ecologist who knows all there is to know about native trees in southern Qld & Nth West NSW esp. the Indig. ‘translocation’ of trees. They have done much work already into research funding submissions and general networking behind the scenes in this lockdown period.
From a farmers perspective I can’t help wondering what else might grow in old boxtrees … avocados perhaps? The importance of these TinTs to the general re-evaluation of Indigenous botanical & agricultural skills needs to be recognised and the Kamilaroi ancestors credited. I thank the authors Bill Gammage & Bruce Pascoe for leading the debate and asking us to reconsider our attitudes and ingrained prejudices. I ask the gardeners among you … do you think you could get a tree to live inside another tree for 150 years or more? These are not grafts but fully functioning native trees sharing the same root space as old boxtrees. I hope to see an Indigenous owned & run tourism enterprise showing these TinTs & Ringtrees & other CMTs sometime soon. Thanks for listening and I’ll I leave it with you ….…Jane Pye