Documenting old and significant jarrah trees in the forests of Margaret River.
Jarrah forest is one of the major ecological niches in the wet south-west corner of Australia. It is endemic to the area, growing nowhere else in the world. Since the arrival of Europeans in 1829, vast areas of forest have been cleared for timber, agriculture or urban development. What is left is suffering from the effects of disease, changing groundwater systems, fragmentation by roads and infrastructure, and climate change.
Jarrah is a hardwood timber, beautiful and durable. By the 1870s the timber industry was in full swing. Hundreds of miles of railways were built to transport the timber to ports for export, or to local centres for construction of the rapidly growing towns. Jarrah became the dominant building material, providing structural timbers for bridges, railways, and dwellings. Weatherboard houses built solely from jarrah were the characteristic house type for half a century.
The supply of jarrah seemed endless to immigrants newly arrived from Europe. Despite warnings from conservators like Charles Lane Poole, most of the large jarrah was stripped from the forests by the 1930s. The ‘King Jarrahs’, which caused so much excitement for their size and majesty, were promptly felled. There are a few survivors, like the heritage listed tree in Manjimup, now a tourist attraction. But the majority of the large remnant trees are those rejected by early loggers, being either hollowed out at the base by fire, or too twisted to make for easy cutting. The forest vistas have changed forever. But most of the forest around Margaret River is now protected in National Parks, a measure of the new respect for the forests as a valuable ecosystem in their own right.
I hope to gain recognition for the surviving old jarrahs by locating and documenting them. Twisted, burnt and hollow, they make dramatic and challenging subjects. The gallery will focus on the Wooditjup National Park, which encircles the township of Margaret River; Rapids Conservation Park, and the Blackwood River National Park. This will be an ongoing project, with trees being added as they are located. Please feel free to contact me if you know trees you would like to have included.
Feature Image (top): This hollow tree stands near Ten Mile Brook, a few kilometres east of Margaret River. Most of the large, straight trees in the vicinity were cut out by hand early in the 20th century, but a few large trees remain. Many stumps of giant old trees can still be seen, some over two metres in diameter. Since logging by the early timber industry the forest was left to regrow and has now been placed in the Wooditjup National Park.
Copyright: If you wish to use any of these images please contact me and I can email you the original high resolution image for a small fee of $25. This fee will be donated to Nature Conservation Margaret River
Please note this article is not intended as polemic or political platform, rather as an art project hoping to encourage custodianship and awareness of our veteran trees
Jinni Wilson is an independent anthropologist working in heritage interpretation. Through writing and photography she is exploring ways to connect community and spirit of place. In 2019 she established Earth Sea Star Eco-Heritage tours, looking to share a rich cultural landscape with visitors and foster sustainable tourism.
Tree Hollows Tour