Opinion: Risks of tamarisk trees

Stan MaleyMidwest Times
Kevin Freeman at the Greenough hamlet.
Camera IconKevin Freeman at the Greenough hamlet. Credit: Midwest Times, Stan Maley

Down at Greenough, at the old hamlet, the Central Greenough Cafe and visitors centre is run by Kevin Freeman and his friendly staff; an absolutely smashing cafe and visitors centre Kevin has managed for 10 years.

It is set in the south end of the National Trust’s property where they are preserving history in the buildings European settlers established in the 1800s. This property of the Trust is about 22km south of Geraldton, next to the Brand Highway.

This brought us to the controversy over the growing or not growing of tamarisk trees. We call this tamarisk article No.3, written in collusion with Ian Byers, who by marriage is connected to a descendant of the early European settlers.

“There used to be a large mature row of tamarisks between the court house and St Catherine’s Anglican Church,” Kevin said.

“This is a distance of 25m. The row extended around the back of the stables. All this is evident in the background of photos of buildings and aerial photos.”

Kevin said the trees were planted close to existing metre-high limestone walls. At the time of planting they may have been one metre from the walls and as they grew the trunks pushed parts of the wall over, damaging big sections.

He’s not sure why and when they were planted at the historic settlement and wonders if it was after the 1930s when they were introduced to South Australia.

“Locals can tell you the choice of trees a few decades ago were tamarisks or tuarts,” Kevin said.

One big tamarisk tree had fallen over. Another one was on a lean towards the church. Kevin noticed big branches were down. National Trust made the decision to remove these trees and Eric Hancock was involved. He finished his work with the National Trust two years ago.

That was in, or about, 2016. Costs were high; $12,000 for trimming. This included some work by prisoner work parties, under supervision, who were able to trim those that were not near buildings.

The full price for permanent removal was about $20,000; some $8000 for removal of the stumps. As anyone on the flats who has tried to remove tamarisks can tell you, it is a constant process over many years to negate any regrowth of the trimmed tree. Removal of the stump has seemed effective in this case as there is no evidence of regrowth.

Some lessons learnt here.

Tamarisks are expensive to remove and take a lot of effort to ensure they do not regenerate.

There has been little positive talk of the quality of the wood for burning or woodwork. So if you are thinking of planting them, think about future residents who may not like them and wish them removed. Their longevity ensures huge growth, with branches at different angles that present a hazard as they are known to fall. They also grow in a thicket that is impenetrable. Some say they create a plant-like desert.

One famous quote by an unknown Greenough resident went something like: “Those who like and plant tamarisks may well like foxes and cane toads. Such is life on the Greenough flats”.

There are many native alternatives. They cost more and take more effort to nurture but in the long term will benefit the native flora and fauna in the intimately interconnected, interactive world of nature.

A big welcome to the heavy rain in June. The flats are vibrant green, as is the countryside as far as Pindar. We pray for good follow-up rains.

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Previously: Tough tamarisks can be divisive

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