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  • Self-guided Walks

    Staying fit and healthy is just a walk in the Park! Download our free Centennial Park walking apps - available for Apple and Android smartphones. More info and download links here.

  • Swamp Closures

    Lachlan Swamp will close on days above 36C to minimise disturbance to the Flying Foxes. There will be no access to visitors.

  • Centennial Park History Book

    Our great new book on the history of Centennial Park is now on sale, and can be ordered online. Great gift idea. More info.

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Tree Master Plan

Sunlight flitering through Pine GroveThe Centennial Parklands Tree Master Plan recognises that estimating a tree’s life expectancy is quite difficult. Typical lifespans vary with different species as well as between individuals within a species. There are a number of factors that contribute to any estimation process.

Analysis of tree life expectancy must begin with a close look at the age and condition of the existing tree population. Before any prognosis about a tree’s lifespan can be made, consideration needs to be given to its growth rate and performance over time, taking into account the particular conditions in which the tree finds itself growing.

The environment is a major factor to be considered in this regard. In Centennial Parklands, trees have to contend with a range of problematic environmental factors, including fast draining sandy soil, low in nutrients, and a degree of coastal-zone exposure.

Taking into account growth criteria and environmental measures, Centennial Parklands arborists are reluctantly forced to acknowledge that their most venerable tree assets are in gradual but inevitable decline.

Trees are living organisms that have definite lifespans. Trees all eventually reach a senescent phase where they are likely to have more health and disease problems. These may become likely safety concerns requiring increasingly intensive management. Good management can prolong the life of old trees but as tree managers we must also plan for the future by getting new plantings underway now.

A tree replacement program

The Centennial Parklands Tree Master Plan promotes a proactive planting and replacement program for its aging tree population - the majority of the Parklands’ trees were planted between the 1880s and 1920s.

This means that as the designed landscape comes to maturity, it has a beautiful coherent appearance.

But as trees reach an age requiring replacement, you will need to replace a lot of individuals simultaneously.

Staged succession in Park planting is the ideal. This means not waiting for a tree to die, but rather to take active and early steps to plan for its succession.

In many cases you can’t establish new trees until the old ones are taken out. The growth habits of existing trees, and their dense proximity, would make it virtually impossible for new trees to grow and thrive.

Grand Drive is a good example of where ‘block replacement’ will ultimately be required. With Port Jackson figs, Holm oaks and Norfolk Island pines growing together in such close proximity, competition for roots, sunlight and water is fierce. It would be extremely hard for the new trees to become established under these conditions.

Retaining the identity of the Parklands

The Tree Master Plan’s uncompromising objective, however, is to retain the identity and character of the Parklands. This means conserving the design elements that its great early visionaries Charles Moore and Joseph Maiden, and their overseers created.

Trees along Randwick PondThey translated an English ‘Public Park’ design idiom into the Sydney landscape through the use of Australian species, such as Moreton Bay figs, to provide a similar visual effect. They took a very visual image of the English ‘Public Park’ and remade it in an Australian setting with Australian species.

The Parklands has a mix of Australian natives and exotic species. Most people think of eucalypts and acacias when they think of Australian natives. But in the Parklands there is a more quirky mix, including trees from rainforest habitats much admired in the nineteenth century butnow less widely used.

A fascinating aspect of the history of tree planting in the Parklands (see A History of Tree Planting) is the way it reflects a philosophy of trialling and experimentation that still underpins Parklands planting practice. It was a paramount philosophy at the time of Moore and Maiden neither of whom could predict what would work and what wouldn’t.

Diversity is strength

It is nevertheless salutary to reflect that some 90% of the 15,000 trees in the Parklands are represented by only about seven species – predominantly the Moreton Bay fig, Port Jackson fig, broadleaf paperbark, Monterey pine, Holm oak, hoop pine and Norfolk Island pine.

Having greater diversity in tree species will give greater protection to the Parklands in the long run. This was graphically demonstrated by the devastating impact of the Fusarium wilt (fungus) on the Canary Island date palms on the Avenue of Nations (Parkes Drive). If we can get greater diversity in trees, we will be building protection in depth from potentially catastrophic events that may affect all individuals within a species.

The Tree Master Plan identifies a range of trees already planted in the Parklands which may be worthy of wider use, including crow’s ash, deciduous fig, green fig, cork oak, live oak, lilly pilly and swamp cypress. The plan also recommends a range of trees that may be worthy of introduction to the Parklands, including Queensland black bean, silver quandong, dawn redwood, African tulip tree and Wollemi pine.

The way forward

Tree Master Plan - CoverTree management practices are continually developing and evolving in response to greater understanding of the environment and ongoing monitoring of tree performance. Trees are managed using the ‘Streets Ahead’ database, which is widely recognised as a positive approach to tree management. The Parklands is a leader in documentation and prioritised management of trees.

The implementation of the Tree Master Plan will be incremental and over decades. Sometimes it can be daunting to imagine trees being cut down in such a beautiful landscape. But a far more frightening vision would be to do nothing.

Download the Tree Master Plan

The Centennial Parklands' Tree Master Plan is available to download. Please be aware these are large-size files and may take some time to download (depending on your modem's download speed):

Tree Master Plan - Volume 1

Tree Master Plan - Volume 2