LOCAL LEGEND: Grafton's Moreton Bay Fig in all its majesty in Victoria St.
LOCAL LEGEND: Grafton's Moreton Bay Fig in all its majesty in Victoria St.

SUNDAY SAY: Moreton Bay Fig is a true sight to behold

TREAT yourself to a leisurely stroll down elegant Victoria St preferably in the early morning or the cool, cool, cool of the evening.

Be delighted by the heritage buildings, both public and private and the diverse avenue of street trees, some of which are among Grafton's earliest plantings.

When you reach the corner with Villiers St there, waiting for you, is perhaps the oldest and most important tree in Grafton, a magnificent Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla), maybe 30 metres high and wide.

The name comes from the Greek macro=large and phyllo=leaf alluding of course to the large leaves which are bright green on the upper side and bronze-brown underneath.

Its fruit appear most noticeably from February to May and are beloved by an abundance of birds including Figbird, Green Catbird, Lewin's Honeyeater, and Barred Cuckoo-shrike to name but a few.

As well, in the hundred or so years that St Mary's School was located adjacent, the huge, buttress roots of the tree provided wonderful places to play and hide for generations of laughing children (including me).

This tree is thought to be one of the very few remaining from pre-European settlement in the city area.

Moreton Bay Figs form a significant part of the fascinating story of Dirrangan and the formation of the Clarence, called Burrimba or Big River, in the legends of the Bundjulung, Gumbaingirr and Yaegl people, the traditional custodians of this valley.

Aboriginal people used the durable fibres of the tree for scoop fishing nets.

So many of these magnificent trees have needlessly gone from our valley.

It is vital that those remaining are cherished and protected.

Council has recently built a walkway over the roots which will afford some protection.

From the Shoalhaven River, NSW to Kalpowar in south-east Queensland, coastal rainforests of all kinds provide the natural habitat of this fascinating species which may begin life as a Strangler. One such is presently consuming an old Jacaranda in Clarence St near the medical centre.

Some amazing Moreton Bay Figs still exist in the rainforest of Susan Island. They are considered sacred by Aboriginal women and the island itself is recognised as a Women's Place.

As you gaze in awe at this magnificent tree, be grateful it is still here and hope that it will live far into the future.

References: AG Floyd. Rainforest Trees of Mainland South-eastern Australia. Street Trees of Grafton: Clarence River Tourism.



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