At the root of the prob­lem

Townsville Bulletin - - Cyclone Yasi: the aftermath - by John An­der­sen

I T d r o p s l e a v e s l i k e Molly Mel­drum drops names, but in a cy­clone it will stand tall against the fiercest winds and has even been known to catch a fly­ing roof in its all-em­brac­ing branches.

The mango tree, ma­ligned by many be­cause of its un­tidy na­ture, is the tree North Queens­land old timers vow is the only plant spec­i­men that should be given pride of place in sub­ur­ban gar­dens.

And now their view­point has been backed up by James Cook Univer­sity’s Dr Betsy Jackes, an Ad­junct As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor in Marine and Trop­i­cal Bi­ol­ogy.

Dr Jackes has com­piled a list of trees best suited t o c y c l o n i c e n v i r o n - ments. And she had no hes­i­ta­tion in rank­ing the mango up there with the best of them when it came to stand­ing proud and tall against cy­clonic winds.

‘‘ I have been told that in Cy­clone Althea ( Townsv i l l e , 1 9 7 1 ) s o me o n e watched ter­ri­fied as a roof from a house hur­tled to­wards their own home in Mund­ing­burra, but it was s t opped when i t caught in the branches of a large mango tree,’’ she said.

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Dr Jackes said there were no trees that would al­ways stand up to cy­clonic winds, but added that some were more w i n d - r e s i s t a n t t h a n oth­ers. ‘‘ How well a tree p e r f o r ms d e p e nds o n many fac­tors such as how wet the soil is at the time, the in­ten­sity and du­ra­tion of strong wind gusts, and par­tic­u­larly the type of root sys­tem,’’ she said.

Dr Jackes said trees with deep roots sys­tems or with tap roots had a bet­ter chance of stand­ing up than those such as some figs and African ma­hoga­nies .

Dr Jackes has been col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion for h e r g u i d e C h o o s i n g Plants For Ar­eas Prone To Cy­clones ever since Cy­clone Althea in 1971.

Apart from the mango, some of the trees men­tioned in her ex­ten­sive list in­clude milky pine, fox­tail palm, Burmese r o s e w o o d , t u c k e r o o , b l a c k b e a n , s m a l l e r pa­per­barks, Le­ich­hardt tree, black tea tree, sea al­mond, and Kaf­fir bean tree.

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