GardenDrumSeparation Tree departs forever

The Separation Tree shows a healthy canopy

The Separation Tree with a healthy canopy in 2012

Sad news that the historically significant Separation Tree in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, has given up the fight after 2 major vandalism attacks. Despite acute care and some clever grafting work, the magnificent 400 year old river red gum is dying.

The ancient Eucalyptus camaldulensis is known as the ‘Separation Tree’ as it was under its canopy that Victorians gathered on 15 November 1850 to celebrate the news that Victoria would become a separate colony from New South Wales.

Grafting repairs to the Separation Tree

Grafting repairs to the Separation Tree

But such politically and historically significant trees are a magnet for deliberate damage. The Separation Tree was first attacked in August 2010, when 90% of its bark tissue was cut away, effectively ring-barking the tree. Some quick thinking and innovative techniques from RBG staff and external experts, including bridge, approach and patch grafting showed some early results, but then the tree was attacked again in July 2013, removing what remained of the original cambium layer.

More grafting was done, but the mighty tree has not been able to recover and investigations by RBG staff show that both the roots and canopy are dried out and dying.

To make the area safe for visitors, the tree will have to be gradually removed as the canopy dies but Prof. Tim Entwisle, the RBG Director and Chief Executive says:

“We are hopeful that some part of the tree can remain in perpetuity, as a memorial to both the tree itself and to the historical events that have taken place beneath its canopy over 400 or so years.

There are also saplings nearby propagated from seed of this tree, including one planted in 1951 to celebrate the centenary of the separation of Victoria and New South Wales.

Our hope is that these, and other offspring distributed around the State as part of a program in partnership with the Victoria Day Council, will in time become alternative places of reflection and celebration. While the tree may die, its lineage and significance should persist.”

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