Do Trees Tell Tales? - Ada Tree, Australia - Holy Thorn, England
A Tale of Two Trees
Here's the story before the Ada tree was found.
Question: What happens when you introduce a crosscut saw to the world’s tallest tree?
Answer: you get the world’s longest log.
I know. It’s a very flippant answer but it’s true. The year is 1884, the place is Thorpdale, in Victoria Australia. Here two men used a very accurate method of measuring the height of a tree. Once you cut it down you can measure it.
Sadly, all that remains of this splendid tree is a sign marking the spot where the giant gum tree once grew.
There’s also a plaque acknowledging it was 375 feet, or 114.3 metres tall before the couple of farmers attacked it.
Why Cut them down?
Other great trees in Victoria have met a similar fate; some still lie ruined on the forest floor after loggers found they were rotting in the heart.
Old-time timber-getters working with crosscut saws wouldn't have ripped down trees this size and left them to rot. Too much like hard work. But with power saws the easiest way to find out whether a tree is sound or rotten is to cut it down.
Enter Mr Werner Marschalek “No reason to cut them down,” he says. “They would probably have stood for another hundred years or so.
Mr Marschalek, who used to roam the Victorian high country in search of gemstones, found a living treasure more than 30 years ago at a time when logging was virtually open slather. Here it is.
The Magnificent Ada tree.
The Ada tree.
This huge giant mountain ash tree, around 300 years old and about 76 metres tall still stands near the headwaters of the Ada River between Powelltown and Noojee, and Marschalek named it the Ada Tree.
Perhaps only its phenomenal girth 15.7 metres at shoulder height – saved it from felling in those early days.
Put it this way - the Ada Tree is one of the biggest living things on earth. A few Californian redwoods might be marginally taller – the General Sherman and others top it by a few metres – but they are softwoods; unlike the Australian rock-hard eucalyptus regnans.
The General Sherman is also much older - around 2000 – 3000 years old. And there are many claims of older, larger trees, but the Ada tree is definitely up there with them.
Currently the big tree is about 76 metres high, according to the Department of Sustainability and Environment, which protects it. But its top has been blown away and in its prime may have reached 120 metres.
Rumours abound of 100-metre tree monsters in the wilderness areas of Melbourne’s water catchment, off limits to the public.
The Wallaby Creek section of the Kinglake National Park is said to have a few trees considerably taller than the Ada, but no proven evidence to date.
The Ada Tree Walk
The Ada Tree is now secure from logging, with the closest permitted coupes about 400 metres away. It also has stands in the Ada Tall Trees Reserve, which is a no-logging reserve.
Its preservation is in no small part due to Mr Marschalek and a handful of co-workers who laboured long and hard to win government approval and blazed a trail through the ancient myrtle beech, sassafras and soft tree fern forest to give public access.
This is known as the Island Creek rainforest walk; a fascinating 1.5 km trail.
The paths were built with the assistance of volunteer workers from the former Won Wron prison at nearby Yarram.
Several metal bridges span the little creeks and interpretive signs describe the flora and fauna. An alternative trail is suitable for wheelchairs.
A boardwalk now runs around the buttresses of the tree, protecting tiny root capillaries from damage caused by thousands of sightseers’ boots.
If only they’d been so environmentally conscious at Thorpdale back in 1884 when the perhaps the world’s tallest tree was cut down to be measured.
How to find the Ada treee in Victoria Australia.
- · From Powelltown follow signs for Starlings Gap, then to the Ada Tree Reserve. The Ada Tree Reserve has toilets and excellent picnic facilities.
Another Day - Another Tree.
In 2010, murder most foul was attempted in one of England’s hottest tourist spots. Such was the shock locals were comparing it to the mourning of the death of Princess Diana.
I’m referring to the hacking of a tree with significant historical and religious connections known as the - Glastonbury Holy Thorn.
The tree was a well documented and a recognisable feature of the landscape in this Somerset town, deep in rural western England.
Its religious roots are said to go back 2000 years; after the desecration it was just a severed stump
The gnarled thorn tree has been a tourist must-see for centuries, together with the alleged graves of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere and the mystical Glastonbury Tor towering over the picture-postcard town.
According to legend, after the crucifixion of Christ, his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, travelled to Glastonbury, bringing with him the Holy Grail which later entered Arthurian folklore.
Exhausted on arrival, before Joseph succumbed to sleep, he is said to have wedged his wooden staff into the soil on Wearyall Hill. When he awoke it had miraculously flowered into a thorn tree.
Appropriately, it became a place of pilgrimage for Christians across Europe. The Holy Thorn was not the original tree of course but said to be a cutting of the original.
Throughout the Years
The tree, protected only by a small iron railing, bloomed twice a year around Christmas and Easter. Each year a sprig was cut to send to the Queen for her Christmas table, and the 2010 vandalism coincided with this event.
After the destruction the sad remains of the trunk were surrounded by littered branches, covered with coloured ribbons, prayers, offerings and ornaments left by visitors.
Glastonbury is renowned as a spiritual centre – a melting pot of Christian worship, New Age believers, Celtic gods and goddesses, people retracing the steps of Joseph and the Arthurian legend.
It’s a place for travellers, poets, artists, buskers, and is also famous as Glasto, the largest greenfield open air music and arts festival in the world. Glasto attracts a whirl of free spirited followers, of songs, performers, mud and tents.
Despite the diversity, tolerance, and tourism have kept this unusual combination of people in synch. All down the years harmony has prevailed - until now.
Reaction in Glastonbury
At the time the general feeling in the town toward the vandalism of the tree touched hearts. Julia Knight, owner of Apple B&B, described the dismay: ‘We were all genuinely shocked and gutted.
‘The tree was loved equally by all sections of the community. We all just took for granted that the tree would be there forever, and something like this is a wake-up call.
We realise what wonderful and historical features we have in the town and need to protect them.’
Certainly myth and legends abound in profusion. Glastonbury is known as a power place of forceful energies – but not destructive ones.
And in every shop and every pub the locals agonised about their beloved thorn – a ravaged tree of huge significance and clearly an icon for believers and non-believers alike.
Some said the act of vandalism loomed dark- an omen of a society breaking down; bored individuals up for a bit of aggro on a night out where anything held sacred must be destroyed.
But it has been attacked before – during the civil war Oliver Cromwell’s followers chopped mercilessly.
Sadly, despite all the experts opinions and the constant treatment, the tree did not survive.
However, locals had secreted away cuttings for this eventuality.
However, locals had secreted away cuttings for this eventuality.
A new tree was planted and surrounded by a metal cage. It took two weeks before vandals struck again. This replacement tree was cut off about a foot from the ground and didn’t survive.
The latest Holy Thorn tree is now planted. You’ll find it by the side of a World Peace Pole close to Glastonbury Abbey.
Several other thorns have been planted in different locations. The hope is that now the Glastonbury story will continue.
Perhaps this is a reminder that the conflict between good and evil on a small or large scale is never ending.
However, residents and supporters around the globe all agree these acts of vandalism will "never destroy what is in people's hearts and hopes".
Do You Have A Favourite Tree with a Story to Tell?
You can read more about Glastonbury at my hub - Glastonbury somerset - the Myth and the Magic continues.