The Lion’s Head Tree, so named because of the evocative appearance of a gall on its trunk, is justifiably considered to be among the most significant of all the trees growing at the South Yarra site of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.
The River Red Gum is nestled beside what was formerly a marshy backwater into which floodwaters from the once-wild Yarra River would often flow. First Peoples reportedly knew this place by the name Tromgin.
Calculating the age of old River Red Gums is no simple matter, but photographs taken in the late nineteenth century show a specimen displaying some of the characteristics that are unique to old trees.
So it’s considered plausible that the tree was present as a young specimen when, in 1835, an unlawful squatter camp was set up on the bank of the Yarra River nearby, a camp which was to become known as the city of Melbourne.
If a tree can be said to bear witness then perhaps the Lion’s Head Tree has quietly borne witness to life as it was for the People who were present before colonisation. Some might find it fanciful to suggest, but perhaps the tree has in some way recorded the tumultuous events that coincided with the arrival of Europeans and the rapid and irrevocable changes they brought. If this is so, then the tree might tell its story to those who are willing to listen.
This beautiful tree can be viewed by the lake at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, if you enter from Anderson street (A Gate) or join our free Extraordinary Eucalypts tour on 23 March at 11 am www.rbg.vic.gov.au
Banner image courtesy of James Shugg.