Guest blog by Peter Butler, Centennial Parklands’ Senior Arborist
A Brachie what!?! A Brachychiton discolor, otherwise known as a Pink Lace Bark, has been recently planted in Centennial Park as part of the Parklands’ annual tree planting. This one is particularly special due to its size, as it stood at 6.8 metres and weighed close to 2 tonne at the time of planting. This size of tree is rarely available from any nursery and is certainly the largest in Centennial Park’s history of tree planting!
I originally spotted this beauty at Trees Impact’s advanced tree nursery in Lake Munmorah on the NSW Central Coast at the start of the year. This particular specimen captured my eye as it was unusually big, with its whopping 2,000 litre root ball (1.8 m x 0.8 m), which was burlapped as it patiently awaited a new home in the earth. I enquired and seized it knowing it would have an immediate result planted in the right landscape at Centennial Park.
What is special about a Brachychiton discolor?
Brachychiton discolor or Pink Lace Barks are a rainforest tree of eastern Australia and naturally grow from Paterson NSW to MacKay in Queensland, where it can grow to 30 metres tall in the wild. They have also been known to grow in southern areas of California! Other common names for this species include Lacebark Tree, Lace Kurrajong, Pink Kurrajong, Scrub Bottle Tree, White Kurrajong and Hat Tree.
Although a little south of its natural range, the Pink Lace Barks have proven itself to be a successful large ornamental tree as it is deciduous, meaning it sheds its leaves in the cooler months. This is rather unusual for a native tree as most are evergreen due to our warmer climate.
It also produces a reliable show of large pink flowers during late spring and summer, making it stand out from the crowd against their usual backdrop of green hues in a large garden or parkland setting. Although a tad slower than the tropics, it grows very well and is long lived.
This particular specie of tree has a conical and symmetrical form with a cylindrical trunk, which makes for an ideal feature tree in an open space. It is also well suited to parkland as it provides shade from the heat of summer with its large leaves and dense canopy after it flowers.
The more obvious features that a successful parkland tree can deliver, such as this one, the more likely it is going to remain in our parks and gardens for everyone to enjoy for decades, reminding us of the benefits that all trees can provide.
Picking the right location
Picking a tree location within Centennial Parkland involves a variety of considerations.
Firstly the biggest challenge we face is available space… and how little there actually is in the Parklands. You may think there is an abundance of available space when you walk around parks across Sydney. However, trees grow and live on different timescales to us and some species, especially those best suited to parks like the Moreton Bay Figs, London Plane Trees, Oaks and many Port Jackson Figs you see around the Parklands, need room to spread out their branches to create that umbrageous habit we love so much.
It can take decades for young trees to reach their potential size so when we as arborists are planning on planting new trees we must assess the potential size and scale of the tree to ensure it has enough space to survive and not be suppressed by any existing trees nearby.
Other factors we must consider include:
- tree replacement
- succession planting
- historical trends of species and planting sequences
- thematic plantings in terms of species selection
- vistas and sight lines to other areas
- appropriate tree species for site use and occupation and
- usage of areas or fields ie events, sports, equestrian activities or simply just leaving an area to enjoy the expansive lawns and sunshine.
Species selection is also dependant largely on proven success of species planted historically in the Parklands, availability of stock, maintaining the theme and ‘feel’ of our Parklands by repeating historical species selection like the iconic figs and oaks, and to increase our species diversity of which we currently have 232 different tree species.
As Pink Lady will be the Parklands’ largest and most featured Pink Lace Bark, we decided it would be best suited to show her off in the south-west corner of Centennial Park. This area is popular with park visitors and cyclists and visually prominent from Fearnley Grounds, the Greenhouse Café, and Grand Drive, especially when it flowers during late Spring and Summer with its large pink flowers.
How do you plant a nearly 7 metre tree?
A quiet Friday in November was chosen to plant the tree with the help of our planting contractors, Treescape Australasia. Although it was to be a complex and delicate operation using some big machinery and a team of 9 to plant Pink Lady, the planting process went without a hitch! It took almost half a day from the arrival on a semi-trailer from the Central Coast, the crane used to manoeuvre it into its pre-dug hole (which was an exercise itself) and the checking and measuring from the team to ensure it was tailored to be an exact fit!
Once it was planted the tree was dressed in a good layer of composted mulch and is given a good drink three times a week, along with the other 134 trees that have been newly planted over the last couple of months around Centennial Parklands.
Where else can you find these beauties in Sydney?
The Pink Lace Barks are a relatively unfamiliar tree in Sydney, however you may know of one or two older specimens in your local neighbourhood, usually found in an old garden or park. They certainly stand out amongst the Jacarandas when in flower.
Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan, Hyde Park, and a significant street avenue planting in Hayes Street, Rosebury. Below is an image of the one in Hyde Park and is a beautiful example of what our pink lady in Centennial Park could be rivalling in the years to come!
Love the Parklands’ trees? Don’t forget to share your social images with us by tagging @centparklands #centennialparklands
Guest blog by Peter Butler, Senior Arborist Centennial Parklands