In ancient mythology and indigenous traditions, trees have long played a sacred role in our world.
According to the Australian Dreamtime, for example, trees and other forms of nature were created by ancestral spirits when they emerged from a barrean empty s which help guide earth and dragged their giant ‘bodies’ around as they searched for food and water.
Native American stories speak of sacred trees which help guide people on a path to love and compassion.
Trees symbolise spirituality. They’re the lungs of the earth and have silently witnessed the enormous cycles of change in the world. They are a source of energy and a source of beauty.
But more often than not, we take them for granted. The trees you’ll read about below may change that view and give you some amazing ideas for off-the-beaten-track things to do as a traveller within – or to Australia.
And while you’re there, you can give yourself a pat on the back for being environmentally conscious.
The oldest tree
Experts are still divided over exactly which is the oldest tree (or bush) on earth. But an extraordinary Huon Pine in north-western Tasmania is certainly one of the top contenders. Said to be around 11,000 (some media reports claim it could be much higher), the tree is stunning for two reasons: it’s unimaginably ancient and it’s managed to crawl across the landscape through cloning itself – to such a degree that awestruck botanists and scientists initially thought they were looking at a cluster of separate trees. To see this gift of nature, you need to be on a registered tour. Take note, the weather’s only good enough to do so at certain times of the year.
The highly distinctive and slightly eery Boab tree is found only in northern Australia – specifically the Kimberleys in Western Australia and isolated parts of the Northern Territory. It’s definitely worth checking out. Its signature feature is an impressive bulging bottle-shaped trunk, which certainly explains why it was used as a prison cell by white settlers. The Aborigines, on the other hand, regarded the Boab as a special tree for other reasons. They relied on it for shelter and as a source of highly nutritional food. They used it in dyes and for making crafts and medicine. Related to the African Baobab trees, the Australian Boab is extremely slow growing. So when you see one, you know you’re in the company of one ancient being.
The tallest living tree
The bad news is that some of Australia’s recorded tallest trees are no longer around because they’ve been axed by loggers. But thankfully there are quite a few forest beauties left. When it comes to the record for the tallest living tree, it’s the Centurion which takes the title. The Swamp Gum Eucalyptus in Tasmania is somewhere between 99.6 and 101 metres. Some interesting facts: it was measured twice, once as part of government forest data collected using an airborne laser system and again by someone climbing and measuring the tree to confirm its record height. The Centurion takes its name from its height and the fact it was the 100th magnificent giant tree to be measured by Tasmanian forestry officials.
The Curtain Fig Tree
Cairns is best known for being the launching pad for spectacular trips to the Great Barrier Reef. It’s also known for its lively international scene. But one of its more unusual and worthwhile tourist attractions is the Curtain Fig tree in the Atherton Tablelands. The strangler fig has the ‘wow’ factor for its dramatic curtain effect. It has grown along a leaning tree to dangle 15 metres to the ground. To view this natural phenomenon, it’s an easy walk to the viewing boardwalk and photo platform.
The Old Jarrah tree
This gigantic tree in Armadale, Western Australia, takes the prize for being a great survivor. Said to be between 400 and 800 years old, the mighty Jarrah tree has managed to cling to its spot inside a car park despite many dramas along the way. So far, it has overcome logging, vandalism and various modern-day attempts to have it destroyed. Thanks to the support of the community and environmental groups, the tree is now heritage listed.