A tree of many faces

Can you see the dragon's head?
Can you see the dragon's head? Photo: Heidi Gill

The lakeside arboretum harbouring the camouflaged boulder featured in last week's column isn't the only landmark in Canberra named after Lindsay Pryor.

In the grounds of the Australian National Botanic Gardens is a prominently-positioned brittle gum (Eucalyptus mannifera) named after the Canberra forest scientist, botanist and landscape architect who was instrumental in securing initial funding for the gardens and planted many of its initial plants. While recently wandering through the gardens (what a great time of the year to do so!), Heidi Gill snapped this photo of part of the Pryor's Tree, which she says ''looks like a horse-type creature resting with head on front limb, either that or a dragon with its head on the side.''

It seems that the gnarly brittle gum is home to a number of faces, for several years ago I snapped this photo of a much more grotesque-looking face in the very same tree.

Another face in Pryor's Tree
Another face in Pryor's Tree Photo: Tim the Yowie Man

The tree actually predates the establishment of the gardens, at a time when the land on the south-eastern side of Black Mountain was a dairy farm and cows spent much of their time nibbling eucalypt seedlings. This natural coppicing meant that seedlings sprouted with multiple trunks. When cattle left in 1952, Pryor's Tree thrived, growing three trunks (one of which was removed in the 1970s) and making it a favourite among visitors and staff of the gardens.

I wonder if there are any other faces hiding in Pryor's Tree? You can visit Pryor's Tree at any time during opening hours. It is located just off the main loop circuit, uphill from the Joseph Banks Building (two minutes' walk from the cafe). The main loop (1.4 kilometres, 40 minutes to 60 minutes return) is ideal for a leisurely stroll around the gardens. It is suitable for stroller and wheelchair access.

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