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Stories from the Hamilton Highway

10. Trees along the B140

The Hamilton Highway passes through country which has been planted with trees rather than through the cleared forests of other highways. The basalt plains were unsheltered grasslands in native times.

Early settlers planted radiata pine in many areas as they grew fast and gave good shelter to their flocks of sheep.

Unfortunately the 1944 fires burned all houses, pine trees and livestock between Inverleigh and Mortlake, so you will see few pines there. Some cyprus have since been planted between Derrinallum and Caramut. Many of these are recently looking unhealthy, possibly due to a "cyprus canker" fungus of the bark, or more probably due to an infestation of beetles, the grubs of which burrow under the bark and ringbark the branches. It appears that the beetle infestation and the tree deaths have now stopped.

The most common eucalypts are the sugargum plantations "marching" across the plains. They originally came from Kangaroo Island and the Flinders Ranges in the 1870s and proved to thrive on the basalt clays where few others do. The stumps happily regrow after the trees have been felled for firewood. Many of the plantations are on their third cycle of growth, and have also survived several major fires.

The third major group of trees are much younger. These are mixed species growing along creek lines, along changes of land form, or around what were salty flats. These are a product of the Landcare movement which provides advice and assistance to farmers who wish to correct earlier problems with their land.

The landscape has changed greatly since the early settlers rode their horses across the wet and windy plains of the western district.

Author: © Chris Lang 2015

A Coppiced Sugar Gum Planation

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