The trees which gave our property its name...
Our property is named Corymbia, names for the many Marri Trees (Corymbia Calophylla) that grow here. In particular, directly out the front of the house is a grove of large Marri trees. As I sit typing in my office I can look out the window from my raised position and see down amongst the trees and it gives a rather nice illusion of green coolness - when in fact it is February and whilst the leaves out there are green, the temperature only exists at one level. Hot. Very hot.
At the moment, in mid-February the Marris are flowering. This year it is a very impressive display of honey-scented, creamy flowers. Their dense bunches, buzzing audibly with bees are a delicate contrast and decorative accent amongst the brutal, dry, desiccated appearance of the late summer bushland. Last night, an intense wind blew for hours, and a huge branch fell down off one of the larger trees in the grove - the kind of size that will entail a full morning’s work with a chainsaw to even create pieces small enough to move. It had my husband and I outside rather sadly surveying the carnage, reflecting on a huge job ahead and cursing the rather mixed pros and cons of these significant trees.
In my mind, Marri trees are the quintessential Aussie tree. What most would refer to as a “gum tree”, Marris have large, sculptural leaves (“calophylla” is actually derived from Greek words meaning “beatiful leaf”) and very distinctive seed pods, commonly referred to as “honky nuts” - projectile of choice for many generations of young Australians. They are often referred to as “eucalypt” trees as well, but technically this is now incorrect. They were reclassified in 1995 to the genus “Corymbia” after genetic testing. The name Marri comes from the Noongar aboriginal name. They live all over the south western parts of Western Australia and typically grow to around 40m high, and can reach 60m in favourable soil types (that’s not here). Their trunks can be up to 2m in diameter. They grow in a classic “tree” shape when in better soil, but in the poorer soil here they grow in a rambling, multi-stemmed “mallee” shape too. When injured or affected by insects etc they exude a bright red sap or “kino”, that looks very much like blood. That is why they are also sometimes called “bloodwoods” or “redgums”. Their coarse bark and fissured trunks are host to many organisms and usually host at least some borers, so you will nearly always see them with red gum oozing.
The veined nature of Marri wood means it produces attractive timber for furniture and floorboards. My favourite piece of furniture in the house is our Marri dining table. However, these fissures and veins, the tendency to have insect attack and high levels of gum, can result in a giant, tree-sized branch cluttering up my driveway. Messy trees, they are always dropping large amounts of sticks, growing wild wonky branches and also dying off select branches or just dying off in chunks - which drives my husband crazy as he would like nothing more than a formal looking garden. He does say though that our “King Marri” a huge, straight representation of the species was actually one of the reasons he wanted to buy this property. Here’s hoping it stays upright and/or doesn’t drop dead. Beautiful, fickle trees that they are.
The trees provide habitat to many native creatures and the nuts are a primary food source for Red-capped parrots and endangered Black Cockatoos. They’re happy to tear at the sweet-tasting flowers with glorious abandon and throw piles of flowers, sticks and leaves everywhere, but when the nuts are at their ideal ripeness, the black cockies will sit in big, screeching groups and bite the nuts, throwing the discarded portions gleefully onto the top of our metal water tank creating a gunshot-volume bang that appears to delight them and make everyone in the house jump. Those birds are the only ones who are strong enough to break the incredibly hard nuts. However, I have noticed that our local “twenty eight” parrots, also like to eat the seeds from the nuts. Unable to break the nut, they will find mature nuts that haven’t released their seeds yet, pick them up in their feet and shake them violently to get the seeds out. To see them sitting on the drive out the front of the house shaking nuts in their feet never fails to make me giggle.
Certainly, the Corymbia Calophylla is a special part of the flora of our property and I can't imagine our bushland landscape without it.