Ep.22 Trees etc. - Gary Moran (@arborsmarty)

You're on the Plants Grow Here podcast. I'm Daniel Fuller. Come along with me as we enter a hidden world of deep horticultural, ecological and landscape gardening knowledge with featured experts, industry professionals and enthusiasts.
In today's episode, I'm lucky enough to be speaking with Gary Moran, who is a consulting arborist from South Australia, who runs the trees etc. Twitter account at aravis. Marty, because I wanted to delve a little bit deeper into what trees are and what they're all about. Gary, welcome to the show.
Oh, it's great to be here.
So what does a consulting arborist do?
That's a great question. I get asked that quite often. And one of the common misconceptions is that is that anyone with a chainsaw is an arborist. And as a consulting arborist, we are people who manage populations of trees, tree health, diagnose trees, do treat inventories, conduct risk assessments and those types of things. And the company that I work for, we don't own any tree contracting equipment such as chainsaws, wood chippers, that's all we do is provide technical information on trees.
So you're not the ones who are climbing, you guys are sort of bit more the brains and the brawn.
That's exactly right. And so I would spend, I would spend a lot of my time with a data collection unit, taking photos, measurements and those types of things to compile reports later to give to various clients.
Right, right. So that's integral in the planning, stages of urban tree management.
Can you tell us a little bit about your tree rod?
Yes, certainly, it's, um, a long time ago, I was into motorcycles. And I've always found myself wandering the gravel roads of South Australia, there's so many great things that you can see that you don't see out of your normal highways. And then over time, I got back into cycling, and then I found myself cycling the same browser I once rode my motorcycle on. And since I'm a lover of trees, and I love to take photos of trees, the bicycle is one of the best things to get the scale of large trees into your photos with. And so no ride along ways. Try to get some photos of trees along the way. And as you know, Dan, I like to tweet them. And yeah, that's how the story of the tree ride grew. And I started the hashtag and a few other people have jumped on board.
Yeah, a few people have. And it is cool to see it's something to behold seeing those eucalyptus trees that you see out there.
There's some fantastic trees in South Australia. And I do realize that you know, Tasmania gets a bit more attention that regard as to the redwoods in America, but man soft, Australia has some fantastic river red gums in particular.
So what's the scientific name for that Riverside gum?
Is Eucalyptus camaldulensis.
Because we had Stuart Williams on the show a few episodes ago, and he was mentioning that if you mentioned red gum, that's one of the most common names for trees in Australia. And they don't always necessarily belong to the same exact epithet.
Yeah, that's true, as you would know from plants that common names are just that they're common names, and they can often be misleading. There's many great examples, like he just mentioned,
and have the trays that you've been seeing around they're being affected by last year's bushfires. And are they starting to recover?
They certainly are, I spent or approximately two months after the cudlee Creek Fire in particular, walking kilometers and kilometers of roadway looking for unstable trees that might impact the roadway. And on some of my tree rides, since that time, I get to ride some of those roads and see how they're recovering. And you certainly notice that the fire has gone through that area, but there's lots of green growth, lots of epicormic growth, new shoots, new occasions and, and other shrubs coming up in the understory. And it's looking pretty good, to be honest.
So when you say epicormic growth, can you explain a little bit more about what that means? epicormic growth is
typically a response to stress in a tree. And that can come from a range of conditions. It can come from general health stresses due to lack of water and nutrients, which we might see on our home garden. More particularly in this case, when a tree loses all of its foliage from a bushfire it needs to regenerate from somewhere. So it uses some of the sugars and starches that are stored in its root system over time. And we'd like to call those the pension of the tree if you will. And it has to spend a little bit of its old age pension is to put all that new growth back back on which we see is epicormic growth.
I love that term. The pension, the pension?
Yes, sir. It's a term I learned really early in my arboricultural studies and it stuck with me.
So when you look at a tree, what do you see
great questions. When I look at a tree, I normally look at its framework first, like in its buttress. And that is what attracts me to certain trees, certainly the ones that I photograph on Twitter. And then from there, then I look at the branch elongation, the branch arrangement, the foliage, color distribution, etc. But it's always a framework that catches my eye first. Hmm,
that's interesting, I think on the same as well.
Yeah, I look horizontally and then look up, if that makes sense. Mm hmm.
Yep. Look at the eye level first. Yeah. So you're originally from the USA, but now you live in South Australia? How do I native trees here compared to those that have evolved in the US? Firstly, we
just covered one of those points is how well South Australia is trees. And Australian trees and largely in general are adapted to fire. If the area I grew up in upstate New York was impacted by far, most of the trees wouldn't live for starters. And that was mostly maples, a few beaches there were conifers and others, but I lived in a near a forest that was almost solely maples. And obviously, those types of trees in those areas are all deciduous. And so then in wintertime, everything's bare. And here, almost all of our trees and South Australia are evergreen. So that's those are the main differences to me. And obviously, the amount of water that they're able to survive on. It's incredible how many South Australian species can survive on, you know, 150 to 100 mils of rainwater a year or like those big red gums that I've been taking photos of occasional flooding, that that comes through the watercourses, and they live off that.
So that occasional flooding might provide enough water down deep in the soil that they can sort of still reach it with their deep roots.
That's 100%, right? Some of these creeks flow, you know, once or twice a year during, you know, inundated rainfall, and then it might not be again for months. And that's how the species has adapted, you know, over the millennium.
Every tree looks different in every species of tree, even though members of the same species tend to look similar. They're always going to be a few differences. But are there any general signs that we can look to see if a tree is a healthy or unhealthy?
There certainly are. And we just touched on one of those points a bit there, Dan is with epicormic growth. epicormic growth, like I stated earlier is is a sign of health stress. And so if we see a lot of that epicormic growth, particularly growing from the trunk, or from the middle parts of the tree, that's not normal, like tree a healthy tree grows from from its extremities is one point. And then another obvious point even to the layperson would be able to see the where the foliage density. So we can see when that canopy gets a little bit sparse, that we know that trees not doing so well. A fully add size if we're used to seeing or a certain tree in your own garden, and maybe one year it's not doing so well. You might see the foliage is abnormally small, or, or maybe a bit chlorotic in color is another one that turns up yellowish type color, which lets us know that it's not doing so well.
Right. And those may not necessarily point to one issue. Some of those could point to several key issues that are going wrong there.
Oh, they certainly could. And most times, in my experience that is due to the trees lack of built lack of ability to take up water and nutrients. And that's often confused with the amount of water that a tree is getting those, those two things don't necessarily go hand in hand. And a lot of times in our urban situations or suburban situations, that's due to soil compaction, and so we might be watering the tree a lot or it might be a good rainy year. But like I said due to compaction the trees not able to take that up and so then health stress comes upon or maybe there was some other root damage due to suburban developments, trenching sealed surfaces put on the root system, etc.
You mentioned a couple of causes there for root damage, but what are some of the other causes of compaction and root damage?
All there are many a lot of them can come from from foot traffic from repeated lawnmowers and those type of things going around the root zones, you know time after time, vehicles driving on them construction equipment, anything that's heavy and repeatedly used the same area causes compaction, particularly in our South Australian soils where there have that heavy clay which compacts really easy where a sandier soil wouldn't be so susceptible to that compaction.
Absolutely. So I know that on Twitter, you are a big fan of a lovely solo tree out in a grassy field. Can you tell us a little bit about how isolated trees benefit the ecosystem?
Wow, that's a The first question is how much benefit would they offer to the ecosystem and argument I would say little To take your question on a slightly different tact. It I find the isolated trees out there on the fields to be like bizarre and just brings those questions for me back to the early days of historical ism like why was that one tree spared in other hundreds or 1000s of trees out in this paddock. But for some reason is a farmer of the day chose to leave one I can make the assumption it was maybe to leave one spot for a bit of shade and shelter for sheep or other farm animals. But I'm not exactly sure if there's something about the artistic point of it in maybe minimalism that draws me to take photos of them for some reason.
That's interesting that you say there's little probably little ecological benefit. Can you explain why that would be?
Trees, as we all know, generally come from a forest and they're sheltered by other trees. And they're linked to each other that that allow our native animals and things to you to use them to migrate to feed to forage and those types of things. And when they are so far apart, and some of the ones that I take, there might be not not another tree within a kilometer or more from it. And so therefore, the link is broken, you know, from any, any wildlife corridors where it could be, you know, a good benefit to that.
Thank you for explaining that. I think that's very interesting. Can you tell us how long does it take to develop the sort of hollows that animals can actually live inside of
that's a little bit hard to positively determine. And I would suggest that it varies quite a bit by species. But to put a round number out there, I would say 100 years.
It's a long time. And
yeah, it is a long time. And that's one of the things that the ecology of particularly urban and suburban areas are suffering from, are we as arborist we get out there and we intercept we assess those trees and you know, sometimes that can be from too risk averse of a person from a perspective. And these trees, you know, were getting removed, particularly 2030 years ago. Due to that. I think as an industry, we're getting better at it these days to recognize the importance of the Urban Ecology, and to maintain those trees and that we can do it safely by a range of pruning techniques and other measures.
What are some of the examples of native Ozzie boreal creatures that like to live in the trees are antiA?
Well, certainly the most notable one to people around the world would be the koala and I see those quite regularly and I do try to other video them or take some photos of that when I when I see them, which is fairly regularly when you get into the right types of trees particularly.
Yeah, totally. And maybe possums as well. Much too many Ozzie garden, just may
you have possums, and a whole whole range of a whole range of birds. I always get excited when I see Tony frog mouse, which unfortunately isn't that often. Yeah, they're
pretty spectacular. Those little weird little critters,
they're hard to spot in. They are masters of camouflage. I must say.
I'm sorry, spectacular is probably not the right word. They're very weird and alien looking. They got a great big mouth. If any of our overseas listeners would like to Google it. It'd be well worth a few seconds worth spent.
Definitely. Yeah. often seen in pairs. Yeah, they are too. Yeah, at least that's my experience. Yeah, I've
seen the same thing, but we set them on my parents farm. So I've seen a brilliant one now. Yeah, my parents have a farm and also just in the bay seven acreage while they still do have an acreage that. Yeah, you'd see him all the time up there in Brisbane. So nice little spot and curlies too. We got up there, but they're probably less arboreal. So what are some of your personal favorite trees, Gary?
My personal favorite trees without a doubt here in South Australia are the river red gums. They, they're incredible. I was on quite a long tree ride yesterday, and an area near Mount Pleasant. And it was just tree after tree of specimens in excess of 200 years old that I've seen. Who knows how many bushfires with the basis hollowed out and you're just wondering how they're still standing. But they're real survivors, how they can, how they can tolerate such things. It really strikes me as an American living in Australia. Hmm.
Yeah, I think that that's funny to say that that's that you would have a very different experience of countries as an Aussie. I know when I go overseas. Like for example, I went to Greece and they had a bunch of Eclipse in Greece. And I love seeing the eclipse overseas. It makes me really proud.
There's some big specimens of eucalypts overseas too, that grow quite well. And I'm unfortunately you glimpse or become registered as pest plants in a few places like California, for example. I thought a few of the Australian eucalypt species are on their pest registry.
Yes. Do it Williams is saying the same thing.
They're so well adapted to those California conditions
that they,
once they get out, push, they spread. Oh, good.
Say, Gary, what's something that most people don't know about trees?
One of the things that we already touched on was the was how long it takes for them to develop hollows and how important those hollows worth. And then the other thing that I run into in almost my daily consultation is how trees can be impacted by development and compaction. And people will say that, oh, but that's okay. I've put a footpath or a driveway over something or my neighbor did that recently over their tree. And look, it's still okay. But often, we don't start to see these effects. 45678 years later for the tree start to decline and health. And then unfortunately, people don't make that connection, that it's back to that root damage or soil compaction that caused that. And that would be the message that I would like to get out there is that we really need to look after those root zones and development better, because it takes a long time to see.
That's great advice. Traditionally, people have said that the root zone extends out to the branch canopy, but can you tell us a little bit about half that root zone actually goes out on most trees?
I get asked that question almost daily in my consultant work. And there is no answer to be honest, and is that tree roots are advantageous. What they do is they follow the the moisture gradient, and they will follow that moisture gradient sometimes well beyond the canopy. And for example, if it's quite compacted on many sides of the tree, they will follow that moisture gradient and the only way that they can go is through that loose friable soil, and tree roots will not grow through bone dry compacted soil, which is a misconception that tree roots can wander anywhere to go find water. No, they
follow the gradient. That's very interesting. How has social media changed the game when it comes to the relationships that we humans have with plants?
Great question. My personal experience with social media is that I've met a lot a lot of like minded people that love trees, like we share, we share our photos. And through social media. We've made new new people appreciate trees, and we've almost developed a tree community if you will on Twitter. Yeah, for one and it and through social media that allows really urbanized people to enjoy trees, even though maybe they can't get outside that day.
Yeah, it's better than nothing.
Yeah, it's better than nothing. And and having said that, we through seeing some of the photos that me and others tweet that encourages them to get out there is to go for a drive or get out to their local Arboretum or Botanic Gardens or go for a little hike and take pictures themselves. And I see people that have, you know, taken up photographing trees as a hobby, simply from what they've seen on social media, which is fantastic.
Hmm, totally. And our mutual friend on Twitter, Adam tree Shepherd rush has started a hashtag thick trunk Tuesday and it's really interesting to see that one kind of blow up around the world.
That's a great example. Like, once that hash tag was started it quickly got popular and I must say I'm quite caught up in it myself and I need to get a photo ready for tomorrow so I can play and and again, people who haven't really thought about large trees are out there to like looking for the job looking for someone so they can get a photo up and you know, enjoy a big tree and put it on their social media and share it. It's brilliant.
Love that guy saying, Yeah, he's great. Do you think it's good for the soul to be in a quiet place around trees?
It is so beneficial to be outside in nature around trees, and the sounds that come from the forest and and, you know, well tree places. And, and it's not just me saying that that's well documented by you know, medical professionals, mental health professionals, that trees reduce crime, Increase Levels of happiness, reduce depression, and just a whole range of benefits that are probably too long to talk about here. Within this timeframe.
Yeah, we're definitely gonna have to do an episode just on that because that mental health to so called nature connection is huge. And it's been great for me in my life. I know that for me, I'm very happy when I'm around nature. Oh,
who isn't it? Yeah, who isn't it? It's rare. It's rare. It's rare that you see a person having a heaven an angry episode out there in the forest all by themselves. yelling and hollering at trees. So not 100% true.
That's a good point.
And and so well, where did that start? Was it was a forest bathing with the Japanese the well Wasn't that a term that they had coin? And so that was a form of meditation. I could be wrong.
What was the term? Sorry?
bathing forest bathing. That's a good one. I like that. Yeah,
if you have a quick Google search of forest bathing, lots of great things come up about that. And the benefits of it. And it's just a more or less is a term coined for what we were just talking about.
Yes, but 10 safesearch on if you're going to Google Search forest bathing.
So Gary, is there anything else that you'd like our listeners to know about before we finish this episode? Ah, geez, I
You caught me out there. Dan. I'm, I think we've covered a lot a lot of great points. And we've talked about some ways that people don't understand how people get damaged and trees and their benefits and social media. And I don't know I think I'm stuck to give
you should you should have written a book 10 years ago and so I could plug that for you
know, my level of writing probably suits Twitter's Twitter's limited characters base
you do well on Twitter? Yeah. Is there like a charity or something that you'd like to give a shout out to?
Or one of the things I've used it you know in the past when I had a country property is the work that the the people from trees for life do and all the revenge work that they do and the and the inexpensive ceilings that you can get through them and be involved in their growing program is just fantastic. And I would encourage all of your listeners listeners to look up your local you know trees for life, yep, charity and and see if you can get some seedlings from them and find a spot to plant them on your own property, your garden.
So trees for life, can you say a little bit about like, a little bit more about what it is exactly. They do? Yes,
they probably they do a range of things. They propagate trees, and they get you as a volunteer, you can be one of their growers. And so you can make a little greenhouse spot in your backyard and then grow trees as the seedlings and then that helps people with properties. Get them out planted, and through some of their volunteer planting days, they do revenge spots, at maybe an old pastures that are no longer use riparian areas, etc. Any place that needs needs trees and to be revegetated.
Rip, I might thank you so much for coming on the show, Gary, I really appreciate it.
It's been an absolute pleasure, Dan, and I appreciate the opportunity.
If you listen in iTunes, it would mean the world to me if you're able to leave a review. It's pretty easy to do. So you just search plants gray here in the iTunes app, click ratings and reviews. Select five stars. And I'd really appreciate it if you could write something there as well to let me and others know what it is that you like about the show. Not all platforms allow you to leave review. So if you don't listen on iTunes, I'd love it. If you could follow us on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you so much. See, I thought it was odd as Marty, but it's obvious Marty. Yeah, many years ago.
Is that a tree contracting business called Arbor smart. Yep. Yeah. And so I've just, I don't know, carry that as a name across many forms and platforms for some reason and so on. And it went on to Twitter too. So that's the history behind it.
In my head you've always been MADI
now. I get called that a lot. So whenever I speak with someone on Twitter, I guess it's it's fair enough after I thought about it, so Oh, good.
Well, I've got plans grow here, calm and a lot of my family said Oh, that's a cool website plants grow where.com

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