A Shady Corner
One of the shadiest areas in De Waal Park is the south-eastern corner near the small gate on Upper Orange Street. This deep shade is cast by a variety of very different kinds of trees, among them the largest specimen of Quercus ilex (Holly oak) in the park and a Brachychiton populneus (Kurrajong).
Quercus ilex (Holly oak, Holm oak, Holm-eik)
Quercus ilex, known as holm oak or holly oak, is a large evergreen tree native to the western Mediterranean region. It’s toothed and somewhat spiny leaves explain its name, holm being an ancient name for holly.
The bark of Q. ilex is blackish. The leaves are dark, shiny green above and below they are densely covered with whitish-grey short hairs. The leaf shape is variable with adult leaves 4–8 cm long. Leaves on the lower branches of young trees are often larger. In spring catkins make their appearance and the acorns develop to full maturity within one year.
In its native habitat Q. ilex grows in relatively arid climates and often at low or moderate elevations. It can withstand wind and pollution and has adjusted well to conditions in De Waal Park. The wood is hard and tough, and has been used since ancient times for general construction purposes and for wine casks. It is also used as firewood and in charcoal manufacture. Another interesting use of the holm oak is in the establishment of truffle orchards, where it is one of the three major tree species used. The truffles grow in association with the tree roots.
Quercus ilex acorns
The acorns, like those of the cork oak, are edible when toasted or used as flour, and in their natural habitat are also fodder for free-range pigs.
Brachychiton populneus (Bottle tree, Kurrajong)
Brachychiton is a genus of 31 species of trees and large shrubs, 30 of them native to Australia and one from New Guinea. The Brachychiton in De Waal Park is a B. populneus, a tree well known and loved in New South Wales.
It is of medium height with attractive, bright green leaves and has a typically stout, smooth stem, where water is stored during periods of drought. The spongy wood has no commercial use. The De Waal Park specimen is evergreen, though some species lose their leaves in the dry season. Brachychiton trees all carry separate male and female flowers on the same tree. Many of the species have brightly coloured flowers, but B. popluneus has creamy white flowers that appear in summer. The female flowers have separate carpels which can each form a woody pod containing several seeds.
The name Brachychiton is derived from the Greek brachys, short, and chiton, tunic, a reference to the loose seed coats. Kurrajong, the indigenous name for Brachychiton, means ‘fishing line’ and refers to the stringy bark of the tree that was used for making fishing nets. In Australia the tree is used as fodder in times of drought when the whole tree is lobbed and then allowed to grow again.
Some Kurrajong species have been introduced to hot, dry regions across the world, including the Mediterranean, South Africa and the western parts of the United States.
Brachychiton populneus flowers
Brachychiton populneus seed pod