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Success with seedlings from beloved sugar pines

Edwina Mason1 March 2021
Sugar pine seedlings in Bago State Forest.

Young sugar pine seedlings were discovered in the vicinity of the old Sugar Pine Walk in Bago State Forest by Forestry Corporation NSW workers in 2020. Photo: Supplied.

If the past 12 months have taught bushfire-impacted communities one thing, it’s that the capacity for rebirth in nature is immense.

So there is much celebration in the western foothills of the Snowy Mountains as news comes of the successful propagation of young seedlings from Bago State Forest’s popular Sugar Pine Walk plantation, which was destroyed during the Dunns Road bushfire in the summer of 2019-2020.

Goulds nursery in Batlow, in conjunction with Forestry Corporation NSW, has been credited with the success.

Nursery owner Jamie Gould says there was a scattering of pine seedlings under a patch of 1930s sugar pine close to the famous Laurel Hill tourist attraction.

Jamie Gould holding seedlings outside Goulds Nursery in Batlow.

Jamie Gould from Goulds Nursery in Batlow gathered the sugar pine seedlings from Bago State Forest and has been carefully nurturing them during the past 12 months. Photo: Forestry Corporation NSW.

“Forestry Corporation’s Ben Wielinga dropped in one day with a photo of recently germinated seedlings on Central Logging Road,” he says.

“It was only three months since the fire – the seedlings were still coming up and no taller than your index finger.

“At that stage we were not sure if they would transplant well or even if they were definitely sugar pine.”

Sugar pine seeds can’t be bought in Australia. The species is threatened in its native North America and biosecurity prevents seed from being imported. Locally, the hefty cones are a favourite food source for cockatoos.

Keen to help create a new Sugar Pine Walk, Jamie and his two children, Riley and Rayleigh, set about rescuing around 1700 seedlings from the site in March 2020, in partnership with Forestry Corporation NSW.

“It was a family effort during a couple of weekends to collect the seedlings from under the burnt trees,” he says.

Jamie adds that growing the seedlings in the nursery has been an interesting challenge, but he is thrilled with the results.

“It is also nice to be involved in renewal following the fires,” he says. “I won’t be alive to see these sugar pines mature as they take tens of years to reach maturity, but hopefully future generations will.”

Wooden trophies for Woodland Film Festival.

Timber from the old Sugar Pine Walk has been put to many good uses, including the creation of one-off trophies for the recent Woodland Film Festival at Tumbarumba. Photo: Woodland Film Festival.

Forestry Corporation NSW has been keen to establish another sugar pine planting as the original had been so popular with locals and tourists.

Ben says Sugar Pine Walk was an iconic local destination.

“We ran a photography competition to commemorate it after the fires and more than 300 people sent in their favourite photographic memories of the site,” he says.

“Finalists were collated into a coffee table book, Sugar Pine Walk Memories, which is available on the [Forestry Corporation NSW] website.”

The bulk of the seedlings will be replanted as a replacement to the former Sugar Pine Walk, with 192 of them donated to the National Arboretum in Canberra for its botanical collection.

While planning for the replacement walk is well underway, the former site is still having an impact on the local community.

Forestry Corporation NSW donated some of the salvaged sugar pine wood to community groups around the region to support their fundraising activities.

The recent Woodland Film Festival in Tumbarumba created one-off trophies created from the sugar pine that were presented to category winners. In a true community endeavour, they were designed by Annemarie Bolduc of Tumbarumba’s Bottle and Brush Studio, while Geoff Allen and the Tumut Men’s Shed hewed the timber and Wagga Wagga firm Littlewood Signs undertook the custom wood engraving.

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