By Sarah Cains

Eucalyptus macarthurii; an important local tree needing protection

The establishment of a grove of the endangered local tree, Eucalyptus macarthurii at the south-east entrance of the Southern Highlands Botanic Garden (SHBG) was the initiative of local woman, Jenny Simons. Jenny is a co founder of Australian Plants Society, Southern Highlands District Group (SHAPS). As a long-time active community member and protector of native plants, Jenny promoted and sponsored this important project.

E. macarthurii, a sturdy and majestic tree, bears two common names, Paddy’s River Box and Camden Woollybutt (showing just how confusing the use of common names can be!) The Camden connection comes from the 1899 naming of the tree after Sir William Macarthur, son of Captain John Macarthur. Sir William was connected with horticultural projects in the Camden area.  The natural habitat of E macarthurii is restricted to a small area of the Central Tablelands (CT) extending through to the Blue Mountains ‘from the Boyd Plateau to Paddy’s River.’ The habitat area encompasses land from Orange to Crookwell and from Lithgow, Katoomba and Moss Vale. 

E macarthurii is at home on moist soils along streams and on flood plains. It is endemic to the vegetation community known as Southern Highlands Shale Woodland and that plant community is listed as an Endangered Ecological Community. The tree’s habitat is rapidly shrinking due to clearing and development. Our local area provides the conditions favored by E macarthurii  and Wingecarribee Shire Council has contributed to its recovery by planting specimens along the bike track which runs alongside the Wingecarribee River between Burradoo and the Cecil Hoskins Nature Reserve (near Bong Bong Bridge).

In Jenny’s words,  “Indeed this tree is a local, and it extends at least as far as Paddy’s River. The four volume work, Flora of NSW, edited by Gwen Harden, places it in the CT with the Great Dividing Range running through the CT on its eastern side.  On the Boundary of SHBG, along Kangaloon Road, there are two or three very old E macarthurii growing.’

Eucalyptus macarthurii

Jenny’s new planting is in this area and augments the stand of trees to which she refers above.

Another outstanding and easy-to-spot mature specimen is to be found on the open ground at the corner of Moss Vale Rd and Eridge Park Rd. Vulnerable because of its isolation in an extremely exposed site, this old tree recently suffered major wind damage. Despite this, it still makes a fine presence with its root zone protected by a ring of rocks. Perhaps the old E macarthurii could be given a group of companions of its own family, trees being communal creatures.  Other plantings featured in the space are exotics.

Roger Elliott and David Jones, in their wonderful work, Encyclopedia of Australian Plants, describe E macarthurii as:  ‘An excellent tree for shade and shelter and has ornamental appeal…Trees are commonly very sturdy, heavily branched and develop a dense, even crown…Plants have proved to be fast growing and tolerant of a wide range of soils…This species is renowned for its frost resistance and tolerates frost to minus12 degrees.’