Bushwalkers have been warned about a threat from above as thousands of the region’s iconic native gums begin turning their leaves up.
Horticulturalist Deon Heemskerk claims the region is facing the very real prospect of losing thousands of our iconic white box, and other native gums if we don’t get rain before the end of the year.
In the hills above Tamworth large ridge lines of trees already appear to be struggling, or even dead, although Mr Heemskerk said that the natives have systems to deal with extreme dry, but has issued a warning for bushwalkers.
“The trees will drop their leaves as they suck the sap back in to minimise and conserve energy, and after that branches will start to die back and drop off – that is why they are known as widow makers,” he said.
“If we do get rain in time the trees will send up new epicormic shoots and eventually regenerate, although the structure of the trees will certainly change and the new branches will be weaker.”
Some of the larger trees reach over 40 metres into the sky, meaning that their root systems would be reaching 20 metres underground, giving some insight into just how low the water table is at the moment.
“We don’t really know just how much they are affected – we really just have to wait and see,” Mr Heemskerk said.
“One thing is for certain, we are going to find out just how tough they are.”
The region is forecast for a repeat of last year’s scorching summer, and the horticulturist is convinced that if we haven’t had decent rain before then we face the real possibility of a bare landscape, as the trees “go past the point of no return.”
Caterpillar Tree Services arborist Matt Brazier agrees, and also warned residents to beware of the larger falling branches.
“The water table has been dropping for five years now, and the lower it drops the harder the water gets – those roots would have been in the water table but look like they no longer are,” he said.
“If those trees can’t feed themselves they will thin themselves out – they are called widow makers for a reason, that is how they survive in hard times.”