Saturday, January 31, 2015

Myrtle Beech Foliage - Nothofagus Cunninghamii

Lyell Highway Lake Burberry
I started the year with a short break to the west coast of Tasmania, my island home.  It was so nice to get away from home for a few days with the whole family.   We ate out every day for lunch and dinner, so no cooking or washing up (no small thing in a family of 7).  It was relaxing and fun and a great way to start the year.  

King River Gorge
It was also fabulous to explore parts of Tasmania that I've never been to before.  Tasmania's west coast is wild and largely uninhabited in the south which is almost entirely national park.  We stayed in Strahan midway up the west coast on the shore of Macquarie Harbour and had a great time exploring the region.  It was also a special experience for me, seeing the native vegetation in pristine temperate rainforest in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. 

Gordon River
Myrtle Beech, or Nothofagus Cunninghamii, is a beautiful tree that grows in Tasmania and in southern Victoria.  I grow it here at Swallows Nest Farm for its glossy green long lasting foliage.  I have seen it growing in the wild on Mount Wellington in Hobart, but in the temperate rainforests of the west coast, it is so abundant!  Around 50% of the trees in the forest are Myrtle Beech.  

Myrtle Beech - Nothofagus Cunninghamii
Myrtle Beech is slow growing and can live up to 500 years.  In the west coast rain forests, where the Myrtle Beech are the dominant species they grow up to 40m tall with nobly wizened trunks and a dense canopy high up the tree.

The west coast area has a high yearly average rainfall - between 3 - 4 metres of rain per year.  I heard it said that there is rain in the rain gauge 330 days of the year.  That's a lot of rain!  We were so lucky to be there for 4 consecutive sunny days!

The trunks of the myrtle beech are covered in mosses and lichen.  The dense canopy of the myrtle foliage creates a perfect environment for them to flourish in the wet, deeply shadowed understory.

Myrtle Beech Foliage

The foliage of the Myrtle Beech is really pretty.  It has small glossy green leaves that grow in a fanlike shape.  As a cut foliage they have a long vase life.  
Myrtle Beech canopy
It was great to see the trees growing in their native habitat.

Hogarth Falls
Hogarth Falls is a short, simple bush walk right in Strahan village.  Our kids really loved this walk.  The myrtle towered above abundant ferns and lined the banks of the creek and the waterfall.

The tree ferns are abundant in the west coast.  They are so beautiful!

The colours of new growth
 Early summer brings new growth on our Myrtle Beech at Swallows Nest Farm.  The colours of the fresh leaves are very pretty - orange, pink and red.  

New foliage in red
The new growth is very obvious on this tree.  Unfortunately, it is no good for picking as it wilts quickly.

Once the new growth turns green though, it can be picked without fear of wilting and it lasts really well.    

 In Tasmania, you'll see fresh bunches of myrtle foliage in the local florists.  It is brilliant for use all year round, except in its new growth phase.  It's nice to know a little about this beautiful foliage and its natural habitat, the temperate rain forests of the West Coast.