A History of Arboriculture - Melbourne

A History of Arboriculture – Melbourne

Trees play a crucial role in the city’s identity and are integral to its ecosystem, providing numerous benefits such as reducing air pollution, regulating temperature, and improving the quality of life for residents. In this article, we will explore the history of tree planting in Melbourne, from its native flora to the exotic species brought in by European settlers. We will also look at the city’s famous and historic trees, the botanic gardens, the fashion of trees over time, and the current state of arboriculture in Victoria.

Melbourne, Victoria

Melbourne is the capital city of the state of Victoria, located in southeastern Australia. The city is situated on the Yarra River and has a population of over 5 million people. Melbourne is known for its vibrant culture, beautiful parks and gardens, and world-class dining and entertainment.

Why are trees important to the city?

Trees are an essential part of Melbourne’s urban environment, providing numerous benefits to the city and its inhabitants. They help to reduce air pollution, absorb carbon dioxide, and provide shade and cooling as well as define the aesthetics of the city. Trees also help to regulate temperature, reduce noise pollution, and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife. They improve the quality of life for residents, reduce stress, and promote mental and physical well-being.

How do trees define the City of Melbourne?

Trees have played an integral role in defining the character of Melbourne. The city’s parks and gardens are known for their beautiful tree-lined avenues, providing shade and beauty to the city’s residents and visitors alike. The urban forest of Melbourne is made up of a diverse range of tree species, each with its unique characteristics, providing a rich tapestry of color and texture. Which trees are native to the city? Melbourne’s native flora is made up of a diverse range of species, many of which are endemic to the region. The most common native trees in Melbourne include the river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), the swamp gum (Eucalyptus ovata), the mountain grey gum (Eucalyptus cypellocarpa), and the manna gum (Eucalyptus viminalis). These trees are well adapted to the local climate and soil conditions and provide habitat for a range of wildlife, such as the Koala, who rely on Eucalyptus leaves as their primary food source.

Which trees did the Europeans like to plant?

European settlers brought with them a range of exotic tree species, many of which were planted for their aesthetic value. These species included the English oak (Quercus robur), the elm (Ulmus sp.), and the plane tree (Platanus sp.). These trees were often planted in parks and gardens, creating a European-style landscape in the heart of Melbourne. Some of these exotic trees, like the London plane tree (Platanus x acerifolia) can still be found in the city today. Origins of tree planting in Melbourne The origins of tree planting in Melbourne can be traced back to the early days of European settlement in the 19th century. The city’s first park, the Royal Botanic Gardens, was established in 1846, and many of the trees in the park date back to this time. In the late 19th century, the city began to expand, and new parks and gardens were established, each with its unique character and tree species. City planning and street design City planning and street design have played a significant role in the evolution of tree planting in Melbourne. The city’s parks and gardens were often designed to provide a green oasis in the heart of the urban environment, while the city’s streets were lined with trees to provide shade and beauty to residents and visitors alike. Some of the most common tree species planted along the streets of Melbourne include the Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia), the Ornamental Pear (Pyrus calleryana), and the Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica). These species were chosen for their hardiness, beauty, and ability to thrive in the urban environment.

Tree Selection: Fashion Over Time

Over time, the fashion of tree planting has changed in Melbourne, reflecting the city’s evolving tastes and urban planning practices. During the Gold Rush era of the mid-19th century, the city was transformed from a small colonial outpost to a bustling metropolis, and trees played a key role in defining the character of the new city. The city’s first park, Fitzroy Gardens, was established in 1857 and was quickly followed by other parks and gardens, such as the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Treasury Gardens. These green spaces were designed to provide respite from the crowded city streets and to showcase the exotic plants that were being brought to Melbourne from all over the world.

19th Century

During the late 19th century, a more formal approach to tree planting emerged, as the city’s leaders sought to create a sense of order and control in the city’s streetscapes. Wide boulevards, such as St Kilda Road and Royal Parade, were lined with rows of trees, creating a grand and imposing entrance to the city. The trees that were planted during this period included elms, oaks, and plane trees, which were considered to be highly ornamental and were popular in Europe at the time.

20th Century

In the early 20th century, the focus of tree planting shifted towards more functional considerations, such as providing shade and reducing the urban heat island effect. The planting of street trees became more widespread, and a greater emphasis was placed on the selection of tree species that were well-suited to Melbourne’s climate and soil conditions. Eucalyptus trees, which are native to Australia, became increasingly popular, as they were able to thrive in the city’s hot and dry climate. Some of the eucalyptus species commonly planted in Melbourne include the River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), the Yellow Gum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon), and the Mallee (Eucalyptus dumosa).

Mid 20th century saw a shift towards more exotic species such as palms, jacarandas and other flowering trees. However, many of these species were not well-suited to Melbourne’s climate and soil conditions, and their popularity waned over time. In the latter part of the 20th century, a greater emphasis was placed on the use of indigenous plant species in urban environments, reflecting a growing awareness of the importance of biodiversity and the need to protect the city’s natural heritage. This trend has continued to the present day, with many new tree plantings in Melbourne being selected for their suitability to the local environment and their ability to provide important ecosystem services.

Famous & Historic Trees in Melbourne

Melbourne is home to many famous and historic trees, which have become beloved landmarks in the city. One of the most famous trees is the Separation Tree, a river red gum that is located in the Royal Botanic Gardens. The tree is believed to be over 300 years old and was witness to a significant event in Melbourne’s history – the separation of Victoria from New South Wales in 1851.

Another famous tree is the Moreton Bay Fig tree, which is located in the Botanic Gardens. The tree is believed to be over 150 years old and is one of the largest of its kind in the world, with a canopy that spans over 30 meters. The tree is an important habitat for a range of wildlife and is a popular destination for visitors to the gardens.

The Golden Elm is another famous tree in Melbourne, located in the University of Melbourne’s grounds. The tree was planted in the 1850s and is one of the largest and oldest elm trees in Australia. The tree has become a symbol of the university and is a popular spot for students to relax and study.

The current state of arboriculture in Victoria

Arboriculture in Victoria has come a long way since the early days of tree planting in Melbourne. Today, the industry is highly regulated, and arborists are required to undergo extensive training and certification before they can work in the field. The state government has also implemented a range of policies and initiatives aimed at protecting and enhancing the urban forest, including the development of urban forestry strategies, the establishment of tree protection laws, and the provision of funding for tree planting and maintenance programs.

Despite these efforts, the urban forest in Melbourne faces a range of challenges, including climate change, urbanization, and disease outbreaks. The recent outbreak of the fungal disease myrtle rust, which affects a range of native tree species, has highlighted the need for greater vigilance and investment in tree health management.

The Fairy Tree is another famous tree in Melbourne, located in the Fitzroy Gardens. This tree is an English oak that was planted in 1863 and has been the subject of much folklore and legend over the years. The tree is covered in intricate carvings of fairies, gnomes, and other magical creatures, which were created by a local artist named Ola Cohn in the 1930s. The carvings are incredibly detailed and have become a beloved part of Melbourne’s cultural heritage. The Fairy Tree is a popular destination for families and children, who come to explore the enchanted world that has been created within its branches.

Conclusion – Melbourne loves trees

Trees have played a vital role in shaping the character and identity of Melbourne, from its native flora to the exotic species brought in by European settlers. Today, the city’s urban forest is a diverse and dynamic ecosystem, providing numerous benefits to the city and its inhabitants. As we face the challenges of the 21st century, it is essential that we continue to invest in the protection and enhancement of this valuable resource, ensuring that Melbourne remains a green and livable city for generations to come.

15 Interesting Facts About Trees in Melbourne:
  1. Melbourne has over 2 million trees, which cover approximately 22% of the city’s land area.
  2. The oldest tree in Melbourne is a River Red Gum in Banyule Flats Reserve, which is estimated to be over 500 years old.
  3. Melbourne’s iconic trams are powered by electricity that is generated from burning wood waste from sustainable plantations.
  4. The Moreton Bay Fig tree in the Royal Botanic Gardens was planted in 1863 and is one of the largest of its kind in the world.
  5. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne have over 8,500 plant species, making it one of the most diverse botanical gardens in the world.
  6. Melbourne’s street trees remove an estimated 14,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.
  7. The Yarra River has a significant impact on the growth and health of trees in Melbourne, providing a vital source of water and nutrients.
  8. The tallest tree in Melbourne is a Mountain Ash, located in the Dandenong Ranges, which stands at 87 meters tall.
  9. The Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) is Australia’s national floral emblem and can be found throughout Melbourne.
  10. The Great Ocean Road is home to the Twelve Apostles, a collection of limestone stacks, which are surrounded by some of the tallest Eucalyptus trees in the world.
  11. The Royal Botanic Gardens hold an annual flower and garden show, which attracts over 100,000 visitors each year.
  12. The Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show is the largest horticultural event in the Southern Hemisphere and attracts over 100,000 visitors annually.
  13. The largest tree in Melbourne’s central business district is a Plane tree, located on Spring Street, which is estimated to be over 150 years old.
  14. The Eucalyptus species, which are native to Australia, are well adapted to the local climate and soil conditions in Melbourne, and are popular in urban tree plantings.
  15. Melbourne’s parks and gardens are home to a range of bird species, including the Rainbow Lorikeet, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, and the Australian Magpie.
15 Most Prominent Tree Species That Define Melbourne:
  1. River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis)
  2. Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia)
  3. Plane Tree (Platanus sp.)
  4. Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
  5. Ornamental Pear (Pyrus calleryana)
  6. Oak (Quercus sp.)
  7. Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia)
  8. Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla)
  9. Canary Island Palm (Phoenix canariensis)
  10. Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha)
  11. Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
  12. Silver Birch (Betula pendula)
  13. Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon)
  14. Peppermint (Eucalyptus nicholii)
  15. Swamp Gum (Eucalyptus ovata)
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