Did you know? There are about 900 species of eucalypts on the planet, with just about all of them occurring exclusively somewhere within Australia.
Excitingly for me, and for Bush Heritage Australia, I recently discovered that there are 15 species of eucalypts known to occur on Hamelin Station Reserve – one of my favourite volunteering destinations in the western rangelands near Shark Bay in Western Australia. My snippet of new information came from nationally acclaimed eucalypt expert Malcolm French – who was up at the reserve presenting at the 2018 Hamelin Science Fair.
In his presentation, Malcolm waxed lyrical about all 15 of the species, enthralling the audience with a plethora of fascinating facts, figures and anecdotes about the diversity of eucalypts that grow on, or adjacent to, the reserve. One of these – Eucalyptus selachiana, a gorgeous specimen – has a very limited range, being endemic to the Reserve and adjacent stations.
They were all interesting in one way or another – such as the size and shape of their fruit (E. oldfieldii); the intense colours of their flowers and fruit (E. erythrocorys); their restricted distribution adjacent to the Shark Bay World Heritage Area (E. roycei): their links to Western Australian history (E. baudiniana); their quirky flowering and seed-setting peculiarities (E. victrix); and so on.
Many of them are made all the more fascinating through having been first discovered and/or described by such Australian flora ‘giants’ as Ferdinand von Meuller, John Beard, Ian Brooker, Charles Gardner, Stephen Hopper, and Laurie Johnson and Ken Hill.
“Wouldn’t it be lovely to see all of these growing right here – in one place,” Malcolm said at the Science Fair … and in-so-doing, planted the seeds for an exciting new project.
Malcolm immediately generously offered to work with Western Rangelands Healthy Landscapes Manager Lis McLellan and her team to establish a eucalyptus arboretum in the Reserve’s homestead precinct.
With my love for eucalypts, and for eucalypt woodlands in particular, I jumped at the chance to help-out – and recently teamed-up with Malcolm to travel-up to Hamelin to get the ball rolling.
Upon our arrival at the reserve, we were joined by Reserve Manager Ken Judd and his wife Michelle, before all four of us set-off to find all of the resident (or near resident) eucalypt species – to collect some seed for propagation. It was an exciting and fruitful treasure hunt, as we searched high and low along back-tracks and firebreaks, and through thick bush for some of the species’ known locations.
After hundreds of kilometres of road and track travelling, we'd managed to collect seed from all but one of the species, which we will now be handing over to a nursery in Geraldton that will propagate the seedlings.
We’ll be heading back to Hamelin some time around May or June next year to join Ken and Michelle in site preparation, and to plant-out the precious seedlings. After that it will be watching and waiting for the plants to grow to create a unique and special arboretum like none other on the planet. That will be special – providing a permanent celebration of the beauty and diversity of the eucalypts of the region, as well as a bonus attraction for all of the reserve visitors who come to stay at the Hamelin Station Stay accommodation facility.
Richard is a Bush Heritage volunteer (and member of our Volunteer Advisory Committee), and regular contributor to the ‘Bushie Blog’. You can follow Richard on Twitter: @RichardMcLellan