Inspiration point – Gumnut’s gum trees

Inspiration point

I’ve known for a long time that I don’t see the world quite the same way as most people. I’ve been known to be weird, odd, out of step, Aquarian, or just plain strange. I’m good at getting the wrong end of the stick in a conversation, and in group learning, my answers are always off centre of the norm. But it is my way of viewing the world that makes me the artist I am. So here I am going to blatantly share some of my points of inspiration, some of those personal moments that just spark for me and make me want to create. And perhaps I can share that spark, too.


Australia is a land covered in eucalypts, a type of tree otherwise known as the Gum Tree (from where gumnuts come from, and hence my name :D). With the exception of the occasional she-oak (casuarina), wattle tree (acacia) and the great Southern Beeches, the dominant genus is Eucalypt.

Eucalypts are evergreens. The hills above my home are draped in the silver green of light resistant foliage, that, while the grass turns from green to brown and back again with the changing of the seasons, stays the same unless gold plated by a setting sun.

In summary, the Adelaide Hills are green all year round.

A few years back I was returning a pile of books (I’m the Promotions Officer for a public library – at the moment, I’m on the last of my maternity leave) and came across one about America. Across the front of this book about America was a landscape of mulitcoloured trees, all different shades of gold, red and orange. I was stunned. Sure, I knew about deciduous trees, we do have them here, there are plenty of exotics planted around the place and they all change colour and shed their leaves in autumn, but for some reason it had never occurred to me that these trees in their native environment still changed colour. The thought of hills covered in a forest of autumnal tones was just astonishing. It just doesn’t happen here.

Lets just say that I borrowed the book.

A deciduous forest in autumn is now on my must-see-one-day list.

I have since realised that Eucalypts are deciduous in their own way.

Eucalypt bark is rather unique. Some species (and there are hundreds of them) have bark of many colours. The Snow Gum that lives on the very top of our higher mountains (Australia is very flat, our mountains don’t get that high and I have never seen snow, but that is another story) literally has bark in a rainbow of colours, subtle but distinct in its own way. Another, the Lemon-scented Gum, has pink bark that almost looks like skin and wrinkles like that at the joins of branches. The Ironbark has almost black bark, the silver green of its leaves and pale pink of its flowers contrasting quite remarkably.

My favourite is the River Red Gum. These trees grow near waterways and they are huge, some growing higher than a 4 or 5 storey building. They are called red because they bleed red and their bark is often stained with it. Again this gum has multicoloured bark, moving through shades of brown and red from black to white. Every morning I drive down a road bordered on both sides by these trees well over a hundred years old. The parrots love them, they nest, roost, and live off them.

And the red gum is a deciduous evergreen.

However, it doesn’t loose its leaves, they fall continually all year round.

Instead, it looses its bark.

Our summers are very hot here and we often exceed the 38C/100F mark. The trees have adapted to this and every year on the first reasonably hot day the River Reds (and the Lemon-scented Gums) shed their bark to expose the white/silvery light reflecting surface underneath. The bark falls off in great chunks in some cases, and it is unwise to park your car underneath a gum (particularly considering that they have also been known to lose entire branches if deprived of water for too long).

The bark shedding has two purposes. As mentioned before, it exposes the lighter bark underneath to reflect heat and keep the plant cool. It also drops all the flammable material to the forest floor where, should a bushfire burn through, it doesn’t affect the plant so much. A ring of old bark is kept around the bottom of the tree for this same reason (Eucalypts are highly flammable, just ask anyone from California or Sydney…actually come to think of it, we’re due for our next holocaust too). In the event of a fire the bark burns, but the tree survives to shoot green once the fire has gone.

Anyways, the point of this little ramble. Every late spring, we receive the first of our hot days, usually above 35C/95F, and as I drive to work amongst those gums, I see that bark fall, heralding the beginning of summer as much as falling leaves herald a northern hemisphere winter.

Our hills don’t deck themselves in autumal colours, but summer is heralded by a forest of silver trees.

I just thought that was kinda interesting.

(sometimes the beauty isn’t always obvious)


One response to “Inspiration point – Gumnut’s gum trees”

  1. Hello Gumnut. Just a note to say that I drove Route 66 in America last October, and saw the aspen forests like rivers of gold down the mountains around Taos, New Mexico. You’ve just gotta go there. Also, once I was in Canada when the maples turned red. All those coloured trees were mingled in with dark green conifers and it was truly astonishing. But like you, I love our subtle, silvery blue gums. And nothing smells as fresh as the blue gum!