Contributed by Ken Dorey, Committee Member, Big Scrub Landcare.
In a previous edition of this newsletter, entitled Don’t Panic, I urged readers not to become frustrated at not instantly recognising the name of every species of flora or fauna in your forest – give it time.
But we do wish to learn. In this edition, we look at trees.
As your planted forest grows or condition of your remnant improves wildlife moves in and every visit you make brings new discoveries. Each new species of plant, bird, butterfly, spider, frog, fungi or insect you find brings its own wonderful story. Learning the names of these species opens the door to this new world.
The first step in honing your plant identification (ID) skills can begin at the nursery. Take an active part in selecting your trees or ask the nursery not to mix the species and leave at least one name tag in the box. Select a tree, select a hole, plant and water… you have just shared the miracle of life – how could you forget that name?
As for most flora or fauna, there are field guides for trees. Field guides, to fulfil their purpose, need to be comprehensive and with hundreds of species of trees and shrubs. In the Big Scrub, field guides need to be large, requiring a basic knowledge of botany to navigate the ‘key’. Drawings can be difficult to match with specimens in your hands so it is easy to become frustrated. It is doable though, and I recommend attending an ID workshop to gain that botanical knowledge. Trees and Shrubs of NSW and Southern Qld (the Red Book) by Williams, Harden and McDonald, is a great field guide for Big Scrub trees and can be purchased for $45 at www.rainforests.net.au/product/rainforest-trees-and-shrubs/
Having glossy photographs of the more common or photogenic trees, instead of hundreds of drawings, it is a stress-free way to kick off your ID skills. Hugh and Nan Nicolson’s books, Australian Rainforest Plants (I-VI), are excellent. Each book contains over 100 species; each species’ appearance, distribution and behaviour in the wild are described, as well as its use in the garden. It is so rewarding to match one of the great photographs with a tree in your forest. Soon, nameless trees will become as recognisable as old friends. The set of Australian Rainforest Plants can be purchased for $110 at www.rainforestpublishing.com.au.
If you take your leaf samples home, you can combine the comprehensiveness of a field guide with the recognisability of glossy pictures. The Nicholson’s have combined with the authors of the Red Book to produce an interactive digital key, augmented by 12,000 photos of all Australian rainforest trees, shrubs & vines. This key is also available for $50 at www.rainforestpublishing.com.au.
As your ID skills grow, you may wish to add to your ‘tree’ library. The ‘bible’ of trees, Rainforest Trees of Mainland South-eastern Australia, by A. Floyd, has more detailed information on alternate names, bark, habitat, distribution, timber uses and seed germination – you can find it for $75 at www.andrewisles.com/pages/books/27412/a-g-floyd/rainforest-trees-of-mainland-south-eastern-australia. If you find fruit or seeds, a great book to have is Australian Rainforest Fruits, available for $59.95 from www.publishing.csiro.au/book/6968/.
As your ID skills improve, you will soon be able to name trees in your planting, by the roadside, in neighbour’s paddocks and on your rainforest walks. You are now a member of a small, privileged group. Enjoy!