26 January, 2014

Eucalyptus Lucoxylon by gum!

During a recent beach holiday I made an interesting discovery. The Bellarine Peninsula has its very own subspecies of eucalyptus. Specifically - Eucalyptus leucoxylon bellarinensis otherwise known as the Bellarine Yellow Gum. And while it is not found along the entire length of the Barwon, it does occur on the banks of Lake Connewarre.
Bellarine Yellow Gum (centre) at the Ocean Grove
Nature Reserve 
According to various sources, the Bellarine Yellow Gum is a smallish tree which doesn't grow to more than about 12m. Whilst the upper branches have smooth grey and white bark, the bark at the base of the tree is rough and grey like a box tree. It prefers heavy clay soils prone to winter flooding and salty coastal winds. Its cream-coloured flowers which bloom in April and May can be an important food source for native animals when other species have finished flowering for the summer. As a result, a variety of insects including bees and moths as well as marsupials and in particular honey-eating birds all contribute to its pollination.

Gumnuts of the Bellarine Yellow Gum
As a subspecies, the Bellarine Yellow Gum was first described quite recently in 1998. It is endemic to the Bellarine Peninsula but European settlement and the clearing of land for farming and urban development since the 1830s means that the tree is listed as endangered with the total population estimated to have reduced by 95% over this time. This reduction is being addressed by revegetation programs across its range which extends west as far as Torquay (where it can be found along Deep Creek and other conservation areas). To the east it can be found along the Bellarine Rail Trail where it forms part of a revegetation program, particularly in the region from Mannerim to Marcus Hill and to the south, important stands of the Bellarine Yellow Gum are being fostered in Kingston Park at Ocean Grove.

Foliage of the Bellarine Yellow Gum
Pockets also exist north of Armstrong Creek and some years ago a small remnant population was noted at the "western end of Lake Connewarre" with the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority indicating in a report that the gum can also be found in the grassy woodlands on the northern and eastern slopes of Lake Connewarre.
Another eucalypt which can be found along the Barwon and Moorabool Rivers is the related Eucalyptus leucoxylon connata - aka the Melbourne Yellow Gum. It is more widespread and less threatened than its Bellarine cousin and can be found around Waurn Ponds, Marshall and on the slopes and plateaus around the Moorabool River including the Batesford region. It is previously thought to have grown in similar conditions along the Barwon through the Barrabool Hills and can still be found through Fyansford and Stonehaven in high rainfall areas.

Melbourne Yellow Gum at the Ocean Grove Nature Reserve
Whilst similar in size and foliage to the Bellarine Yellow Gum, its pink/red flowers bloom from May to September.
Gumnuts of the Melbourne Yellow Gum

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