A Melbourne Gardens Icon: The Lions Head Tree

This majestic eucalypt, having earned its unique name due to the resemblance between the gall on its trunk and a lion’s head, is considered to be one of the most significant trees growing at Melbourne Gardens. The Lions Head Tree is a River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), the species being named for the Camaldoli Gardens in Italy where the species was first was described in 1832 by Frederick Dehnhardt, Chief Gardener. Dehnardt propagated River Red Gum plants from seeds sent to him in 1818 from New South Wales.

The Lions Head tree was first photographed in Melbourne Gardens in 1885 and is still going strong in 2019. Calculating its exact age is tricky, but considering it displayed characteristics of an older gum when first photographed, it likely existed in the early 1800s, where it was originally nestled beside a marshy backwater the Yarra River would flood into, known as Tromgin to the first people. This tree was most likely a sapling when, in 1835, a squatter camp was set up on the bank of the Yarra River nearby, which would eventually develop into the city of Melbourne.

If trees could talk, the Lions Head tree would have a remarkable story to tell, bearing witness to life as it was for indigenous Australians before colonisation, and the tumultuous events that coincided with the arrival of Europeans and the rapid and irrevocable changes they brought. It and other River Red Gums are increasingly threatened due to logging, climate change and the general impacts of colonisation, and it is critically important to conserve them, as they play an invaluable role in supporting the biodiversity of Australian landscapes, not to mention keeping Koalas well fed!

Come and visit the iconic Lions Head tree and the diverse range of other Eucalypts at the Melbourne and Cranbourne Gardens, and consider growing a gum or two in your backyard!

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