Spring Gully Conservation Park & Eucalyptus macrorhyncha - Red Stringybark

Wednesday, Dec 01, 2010 at 15:39

Stephen L (Clare) SA

Following through on the posts that Val has started on the Forum, Wildflowers, Photos…
I wish to post this follow up on a special place that would not be unknown to most people outside of South Australia, Spring Gully Conservation Park. What makes this place even more important to the Nation of Australia is that it is the only location in South Australia where the small population Red Stringybark can be found.

Unlike my other blogs that I have put up here on ExplorOz, we did not have to travel very far to get the details and the photos for this story, as it is literally right on our back door step and only less than a 15 minute drive from where we live here in Clare South Australia. As children growing up, we spent many hours exploring the hills and gullies now within the Spring Gully Conservation Park and had many family picnics at many of the locations within the Park.

When we first went out to take photos for this story, my main aim and intention was to take a number of photos of the Red Stringybark, but were taken back at all the wildflowers that were still in full bloom, all at the same time and all within a few very short kilometres from the first group, until the next lot while walking on the Cascades Walk in Spring Gully Conservation Park, South West of Clare. The Blog will be broken up into 2 sections, firstly about Eucalyptus macrorhyncha and the second section about Spring Gully Conservation Park and the only small population of these Eucalyptus trees in South Australia.

Red Stringybark (Eucalyptus macrorhyncha)
A Stringybark can be any of the many Eucalyptus species which have thick, fibrous bark. Like all eucalypts, Stringybark’s belong to the Myrtaceae family. In exceptionally fertile locations, some Stringybark species can be very large, reaching over 80 metres in height, while more typically, Stringybark’s are medium sized trees in the 10 – 40 metre range.

The term Stringybark is often used in error, as scientists consider Eucalyptus oblique not to be related to Stringybark’s because of the gumnut shape. Also Eucalyptus acmenoides is part of the mahogany group of Eucalyptus and despite the bark being quite stringy; the gumnuts are a different shape also. The Red Stringybark buds are found in the leaf axils in sevens or more, are 9 – 12mm across with domed tops and protruding teeth.

Eucalyptus macrorhyncha, commonly known Red Stringybark, is a small to medium sized tree with rough, thick fibrous stringy dark brown/grey bark, but red brown within the deep fissures. The bark is easily damaged by stock rubbing or chewing the bark and also provides nesting material for many native birds. Eucalyptus macrorhyncha was first recognised as a distinct species and given its name by Ferdinand van Mueller. In 1867 George Bentham published a formal description in Volume 3 of his Flora Australiensis and based his description on syntypes collected by Ferdinand von Mueller and Frederick Adamson. Adult leaves are stalked, lanceolate, 15 x 2.5 cm, concolourous and slightly glossy green and produce white flowers in mid summer to mid autumn with the buds having conical caps as long or longer than the bases.

The trees are common and found on range tablelands of New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, and only one small disjunct population in South Australia, southwest of Clare. In New South Wales and Victoria, Red Stringybark is a major pollen and honey tree and from tests found the pollen to be 23% to 24% crude protein. It has been found that bees foraging on red Stringybark during a wet autumn may develop nosema disease. In areas where there are populations of Koalas, the leaves are a browse food source for them.

Spring Gully Conservation Park
The now 398 ha park was first gazetted as a Wildlife Reserve in 1962. The original Reserve was only just fifteen acres in size and over time the Wildlife Reserve was extended to include the springs that give the park its name. On the 9th September 1976 the Wildlife Reserve was proclaimed as a Conservation Park to protect South Australia’s only population of Red Stringybark (Eucalyptus macrorhyncha). The other main species of tree that can be seen, often growing right alongside of the Red Stringybark, is Eucalyptus leucoxylon, the South Australian Blue Gum. The park protects a picturesque, regenerating natural landscape, has a steep, undulating terrain that leads into the creek bed of Spring Gully, and is home to Western Grey Kangaroos, Euros, Common Brushtail Possums, Echidnas, over 50 species of native birds and bats.
Prior to European settlement, the grassy woodland and open grasslands provided an abundance of food for the local Ngadjuri Aboriginal people. With the arrival of the first Europeans into the district in the early 1840’s, it soon became clear that the Red Stringybark was a hard, termite resistant timber and was the preferred local timber for buildings and stock yards and the park was utilized extensively for logging and for stock grazing.
It is believed that thousands of years ago the Spring Gully population became separated from the remainder of the species that still live in the eastern states of Victoria and eastern New South Wales. Over that time, the trees have survived in a healthy state but things have taken a change for the worse in the last few year. During the exceptional summer of 2007/08, the Park was hit very badly with drought and high summer temperatures with heavy damage particularly to the Red Stringybark. It has been reported by a few people that a very high proportion of the Red Stringybark suffered dieback. Many of the effected trees did reshoot and a small number of the trees have not survived. It was believed that if the trees did not rejuvenate and continued to die off at that alarming rate, it could be as quick as a few decades that the Red Stringybark would go from being the dominant tree species in some microenvironments to becoming scattered remnants in only small areas, predominantly with southerly aspects. To add further stress to the surviving trees, a bushfire was started by lightning on the 20th November 2009 during a record November heat wave. Around 1 ha of the Spring Gully Conservation Park was affected by the fire, but because of the slope and gullies of the land, around 4ha of actual timber were affected and burnt.

Today dedicated staff from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, along with local volunteer group “Friends of Spring Gully”, part of the statewide Friends of Parks are monitoring the state of the park. The Friends of Spring Gully Conservation Park are also actively involved in other projects including walking trail maintenance; flora surveys, weed abatement and even hand pollinate the rare White Beauty Spider Orchid in small populations to enhance seed set. As you will see from the many pictures that I have taken, the area is awash with different varieties and colours in spring of the many wildflowers that are very easy to see on one of the great and enjoyable walks that the Park provides. The Cascade walk is an easy walk that will give you an insight into the beauty of the park as well as seeing the waterfall flow if you are lucky enough to be there after local rain. The walk will be rewarding when the following are in full bloom.

When growing up, this was one location that was only ever known of by the locals, but over time the beauty of the park has become more publicly known to the greater community. So if you are passing through the Clare Valley and want to see why the area is so special to me, follow one of the well signposted roads from the Main North Road out to Spring Gully. If you are in the area near dusk, the views from the lookout over the pains and the setting sun will make lasting memories for you and you will see why the Spring Gully Conservation Park is so special to the people of South Australia.

I would like to thank the local Office and Staff here in Clare of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for checking this information and also giving me details that I required.
Smile like a Crocodile
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