GAR­DEN HINTS

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - FRONT PAGE - with HE­LEN

IN North East Victoria, Brachy­chi­ton pop­ul­neus, the Kur­ra­jong, oc­curs nat­u­rally and it and other Brachy­chi­ton species are planted ex­ten­sively as gar­den and street trees. There are 31 species of Brachy­chi­ton and all ex­cept one are na­tive to Aus­tralia. Al­though they are sig­nif­i­cant trees, Brachy­chi­tons are ac­tu­ally suc­cu­lents. When it rains, the roots trans­port wa­ter to the trunk and it ex­pands. In dry times, the trunk shrinks to con­serve pre­cious wa­ter. Brachy­chi­ton species ap­pear on many lists of fire-re­tar­dant plants. The Kur­ra­jong is the only Brachy­chi­ton which is ever­green. It can reach around 20 me­tres, and grows fairly quickly to form a straight, shapely, tree with lus­trous green leaves.

It is deep-rooted, but the roots are not in­va­sive. The bell-shaped flow­ers are pink­ish cream, and ap­pear in sum­mer. Brachy­chi­tons have been an im­por­tant indige­nous food plant. The young roots are tu­ber-like and can be eaten fresh. Their high wa­ter con­tent is valu­able when other sources of wa­ter are not avail­able. The hard, boat-shaped seed cap­sule con­tains pea-sized seeds which can be roasted and eaten. Kur­ra­jong is de­rived from the tra­di­tional lan­guage of the Darug and Eora peo­ples of the Syd­ney re­gion - ‘gar­ra­juŋ’ = “fish­ing line”. Fish­ing lines and nets were made from Kur­ra­jong bark. Brachy­chi­tons are all spec­tac­u­lar trees and many are suit­able gar­den plants for our re­gion. B. dis­color (Lace­bark Tree) is de­cid­u­ous, and has masses of pink­ish red bell flow­ers up to 5cm in di­am­e­ter which smother the tree in sum­mer. A pink car­pet of fallen flow­ers can com­pletely cover the ground be­low. B. rupre­stris (Queens­land Bot­tle Tree) is a cu­rios­ity and great gar­den spec­i­men. The bot­tle form de­vel­ops from about 8 years. B. ac­er­i­folius (Illawarra Flame Tree) has a spread­ing crown. Clus­ters of bell-shaped flow­ers are bright red. Flow­er­ing is vari­able from sea­son to sea­son, and is best fol­low­ing hot dry pe­ri­ods. In good years, trees com­pletely de­fo­li­ate. Seedlings make good in­door pot plants. Brachy­chi­ton species graft eas­ily, and can also be grown from cut­tings. Spec­tac­u­lar, smaller-grow­ing grafted Brachy­chi­tons in­clude B. Jer­ilderie Red, B. Bella Donna, B. Beau Bells, and B. Grif­fith Pink.

GROW­ING: An eight year old Brachy­chi­ton ru­pestris, de­vel­op­ing a ‘bot­tle’ trunk.

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