Solace under a leafy canopy

Although the other day saw a most welcome shower of rain at Nyroca (1.5mm) it was just enough to settle the dust for about an hour, but also to stimulate the scent of the eucalyptus trees, especially the grand old river red gums, which dominate the landscape  hereabouts.

They are the staunchest of trees, living for anything up to a thousand years, and their experience includes thirst and starvation, drought, flood and fire,  and attack from insects such as borers. But they are so resilient and have an ability to survive such torture, and seemingly come back from the dead. The majestic tree dwarfs the scraggly sugar gum of the Lower Eyre Peninsula, with its genetic  irregularity compared to the magnificent sugar gums, of say, the Flinders Ranges.

The river red gum is the most widely distributed gum tree on the continent. There is a most famous photograph of one at the edge of Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges, entitled ‘Spirit of Endurance’ and known as ‘The Cazneaux Tree’ after the name of the photographer, Harold Cazneaux. He said that by standing near the tree embued him with a spirit of Australia, and now ofcourse ‘The Spirit of Australia’ is emblazoned on all Qantas aircraft.

The Cazneaux Tree has a cousin, if you like, at Nyroca. It stands next to my cottage and measures seven metres in circumference at the base, and stands nearly 20 metres tall. It would have to be several hundred years’ old and is certainly a ‘scarred tree’ whereby the scar itself is fairly regular in shape with parallel sides and pointed ends. The scar measures about two metres from top to bottom, and no doubt was cut from the tree trunk for some ancient purpose, whether in connection with a ceremony, or for the making of a shield or for a carrying utensil (coolaman).

Having made this recent attachment to the great tree, I can sit on the deck of my cottage and ponder as I look towards the ‘Spirit of Endurance’ and its history fills me with wonder. Just what has taken place in and around this emblem of Australian identity, and what was the state of the landscape prior to European settlement, as the early settlers needed many such trees for furniture, fencing and firewood. I am ever so pleased that this one at least escaped the ravages of nature and man and stands as a proud monument.

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