It's National Tree Day in Australia today, a day when folk are encouraged to plant a tree. We have planted 19 trees on our suburban block to add to the five we inherited, so although we won't be planting a tree today, I think we've managed to add something to Australia's tree count.
The special day for trees causes me to reflect on trees I've known in my life and one stands out above the others, pun intended. The tree I have in mind is an Angophora floribunda or Rough Barked Apple Gum. As trees go, it isn't particularly special nor sought-after and in fact, is somewhat decried as being as poor firewood material and a 'widow-maker' owing to its propensity to drop branches without warning.
On our previous property, our little olive farm, we had a number of these trees, but the one near the house was huge and served as a bird hotel, harbouring a varied collection of our beautiful birds at different times: rosellas, galahs, butcher birds, honeyeaters, magpies, cuckoo-shrikes and bower birds, to name just a few. It was something of a bystander in the garden, that tree: when I looked through old photos, I found very few where it wasn't tucked to the side or the background of the photo, and yet it was the only tree near the house when we first built on our old sheep paddock.
A friend estimated that it was about 150 years old. I loved its sinuous branches and its massive fissured trunk. I delighted in its thousands of flowers in December and the thrumming of bees who loved it too. It was wonderful to sit under on the hottest summer day, when the temperature was degrees cooler in its shade. It was a magnificent tree, a tree to be treasured and remembered.