Among the autumn trees of Springvale

07 April 2021
autumn flowers arrangement cafe vita et flores springvale
An autumn arrangement at Café Vita et flores at Springvale Botanical Cemetery.

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”

― Albert Camus

Nothing feels more like the change of seasons than the transition of summer greens to shades of orange, yellow, and red. Whether it’s the signature crunch of walks, or the majestic peppering of gold and copper, autumn holds a special place in the calendar.

Of course, we have our trees to thank for the magic of autumn, which is why we thought we’d take a moment to pay special homage to some of the wonderful species across our grounds, some of which have seen centuries of autumns go past.

To change or not to change

You might be surprised to know many of Australia’s native trees do not undergo the change of colour associated with autumn. In the northern hemisphere, trees receive very clear signals from the environment in the form of changes in temperature and daylight that encourage deciduous trees to shed their leaves for the winter. By contrast, the Australian climate is less predictable, which means ideal growing conditions can come along at any time. Most of our native trees have evolved to be able to capitalise on these opportunities by remaining evergreen.

At our grounds we have a broad range of flora from all regions of the world. About 11,000 trees call Springvale Botanical Cemetery home. These trees are a combination of indigenous, Australian native, and exotic species. This means that even through autumn, you will always find a blanket of green throughout our gardens.

sugar gum sibling planted native farming days necropolis
Native sugar gums (eucalyptus cladacalyx). The younger tree in the foreground was not planned, and instead is speculated to have sprouted from a seed planted by a visitor many years ago.

Friends of the past

At Springvale Botanical Cemetery, 17 special trees have stood on our grounds long before the cemetery came to be. These special ancestors are specially cared for to ensure they remain strong for generations to come.

On our grounds you will also find several rows of large sugar gums (eucalyptus cladacalyx) from farming days past, and many old European trees such as elms, oaks, birches, and palms.

Our trees provide a source of food for native and exotic fauna, which in turn provides a regular attraction to birdwatchers’ clubs.

hollow red river gum springvale botanical cemetery

Our arborists take great care to maintain the integrity of our trees, but they also cultivate naturally occuring hollows to provide a habitat to native wildlife. This healthy red gum (eucalyptus camaldulensis, pictured above) has a hollow running for several metres up its trunk.

These red river gums pre-date the cemetery and have grown in a curious straight line across the grounds. This likely marks the path of an old stream that existed in the area hundreds of years ago.

Age is just a number

Some trees stand out among the rest, such as our 300-year-old eucalyptus camaldulensis, which stands proud outside Café Vita et flores. We carefully protect and monitor this magnificent tree and have installed an irrigation system under the wooden decking at the cafe to support its shallow roots. This irrigation system floods the tree at key times of the year to simulate its preferred natural cycle.

oldest eucalypt 300 year old deck cafe flooding
The 300 year old eucalyptus camaldulensis outside Café Vita et flores

Along Main Drive you will spot two Bunya pines standing vigil - natives of Queensland. These were planted some time in the 1900s next to the then-entrance and gatehouse, and in their 119 years are still quite young compared to a life expectancy of around 500 years. They can grow to a height of 30–45 metres, and they produce cones the size of footballs, which contain an edible kernel similar in taste to a chestnut.

bunya pine main drive 1900s planted
A Bunya pine as seen from below
bunya pine chestnut hand springvale grounds
Inside football-sized large pinecones you can find edible chestnut-like kernels like this one found under one of our Bunya pines.

Autumn is a wonderful time of year, and our trees play a large role in marking the occasion. Next time you’re on the grounds, take a minute to look around and thank the trees that give the gardens so much character.

autumn leaves deciduous brown leaves chlorophyll
Deciduous trees shed leaves in autumn in preparation for the winter. Leaves turn brown because the chlorophyll, which gives it the green colour, is reabsorbed into the tree before the leaf is released.
Back to Top