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Mountain Ash

Mountain Ash

E. regnans
Photographer - John Broomfield
Source - Museum Victoria
E. regnans foliage E. regnans
Photographer - Ross Field
E. regnans foliage
Photographer - John Broomfield
Source - Museum Victoria

Eucalyptus regnans

Mountain Ash is the most readily identifiable feature of the tall forests east of Melbourne. It is a fast-growing single trunk tree with small open canopy to 100 m. From summer to winter it is profuse with small white flowers. Long ribbons of bark hang from the trunks of large trees. Mature trees become heavily buttressed.

It is the world's tallest flowering tree. It produces excellent hardwood timber and is also used in paper manufacturing. The trees are usually killed by intense fire and seed germinates in the ash bed.

While fire-adapted and recognisably a eucalypt, the Mountain Ash is unusual in being adapted to a high rainfall environment where it commonly rubs shoulders with cool temperate rainforest. It produces 2-3 times the leaf litter of other eucalypts creating a deep litter layer, shedding more leaves in droughts. Unlike many other eucalypts, it has no insulating bark, no lignotuber and does not sprout from epicormic buds, features which make it fire sensitive. It releases large quantities of seeds after intense crown fires, which are encouraged by the long strings of hanging bark and the extreme combustibility of the foliage.

Trees are characteristically tall and straight, typically with no branches until near the crown. Increased maturity is characterised by trees becoming more widely spaced and heavier in the trunk, with a greater number of tree hollows forming. Undergrowth thins and its species mix changes as the forest matures. In the absence of fire, old age and death occurs at around 400 - 500 years. Fire sensitive cool temperate rainforest species commonly coexist with Mountain Ash, particularly in the gullies which are not reached by fires, and, being adapted to regeneration in low light conditions, can gradually replace the dying Mountain Ash forest.

Leadbeaters' Possum requires mature Mountain Ash for nest sites and a Silver Wattle, Acacia dealbata, understorey for feeding. The tree provides nectar and seeds for birds and leaves for caterpillars.

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