Deciduous delights

This article is extracted from Yuruga Newsletter
Vol 10 No 4 (November 2002)

There is something particularly beautiful about deciduous plants.

When they drop all their leaves and expose their bare skeletons to the world, they present an architectural grandeur that adds quite another dimension to the landscape.

In the tropics where it is basically warm all year round, deciduous trees mark the passage of the year. It’s definitely November when the Flame Trees throw off all their old leaves and litter the ground beneath with a thick layer of mulch, lying ready to decompose and recycle once the rains begin.

Who can begrudge the litter when the reward is a spectacle of architectural brilliance and fiery colour?
Soon the storms will come, and then the long awaited wet season ….

Brachychiton acerifolius

Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerifolius)
The Flame Tree is very familiar to most of us, since it is a native of our local north Queensland rainforests. It is actually very widespread in the wild, occurring in rainforests from Iron Range on Cape York Peninsula right down to the Wollongong region south of Sydney (where it is known as the Illawarra Flame Tree for obvious reasons).
The Flame Tree is hardy and easy to grow. It has large lobed leaves resembling maple leaves (hence the ‘acer-i-folius’ species name), and it usually flowers within a couple of years of planting.

The Flame Tree is a fantastic spectacle in flower since it drops every leaf and produces masses of brilliant red flowers. At this time of year you can’t miss them in gardens and dotted across the rainforest canopy throughout the region.

Melia azedarach

White Cedar (Melia azedarach)
The White Cedar is a very hardy and fast growing tree from low to medium rainfall rainforests right across tropical Australia.
It drops all its leaves in about June, and then produces masses of lovely purple/white flowers at the same time as it puts on its fresh coat of soft green new foliage. The flowers are an absolute delight amongst the fresh green leaves, and have a lovely scent.

The White Cedar is well known is forestry circles for its lovely timber. In cultivation it is extremely hardy, and grows into a superb shade tree even in very arid areas such as Alice Springs.

Eucalyptus platyphylla

Poplar Gum (Eucalyptus platyphylla)
The Poplar Gum is a well-known eucalypt of tropical Queensland. It is easy to identify by its open sprawling habit, large round leaves (like a poplar) and smooth white trunk.
The Poplar Gum is a very common tree of open forests in Eastern Queensland from about Rockhampton northwards. The old bark is shed each year to reveal a new trunk of the most exquisite salmon-pink, eventually hardening off to the familiar smooth white trunk.

This eucalypt is usually known as the Poplar Gum because of its unusual round leaves, but it is also sometimes referred to as the Ghost Gum because of its beautiful trunk, although it is not the same Ghost Gum as the famous trees of central Australia.

Unusual amongst the gum trees, this eucalypt is deciduous, shedding its leaves when it flowers. In a wet year it may only shed a few leaves, but in a particularly dry year it will drop the entire canopy. The bare branches bear masses and masses of fluffy white flowers which make a truly spectacular sight against a brilliant blue sky.