I’ve looked at this tree for years without really seeing it.
But as soon as I knew what to look for, I saw it for what it is. An Aboriginal scarred tree, direct and eloquent evidence of the lives of the Aboriginal people who lived here before white colonisation.
The discovery of Aboriginal scarred trees here on this Country has been a life-changing experience. It has the potency of a blessing. And although I’ve used two photographs of a living Aboriginal scarred tree in a previous post, I did so as a kind of poetic inspiration and without any explanation.
About four months ago, I first looked at a tree here at the farm and saw that it was an Aboriginal scarred tree. I was amazed. My husband and I have now found many other scarred trees. I will show you that first tree, and all the others, in future posts but I want to begin with this most spectacular canoe scarred tree.
This dead tree stands in a small square paddock on the edge of Kewell Creek known as the Dead Tree Paddock. The tree is about 750m from the confluence of Kewell Creek and the Page River. It is surrounded by most of the remaining giant and majestic and ancient Red Gums that are on my property and on my neighbour’s. It’s been dead as long as anyone can remember. It looks like it was killed by lightning, but not until it had lived, most probably, for many hundreds of years.
Looking at it now, it is clear that it is an Aboriginal scarred tree. The large shape on the side of the trunk is a scar from where Aboriginal people removed a piece of bark several metres in length. Because of its large size most probably in this case the bark would have been used to make a canoe. The bark that was removed would have been wider and longer than the size of the shape that remains visible today.
You can see the overgrowth of the bark . The overgrowth forms a large round and deep roll along each side of the scar. It bears the characteristic radial marks often found on scarred trees. The impressive extent of the overgrowth indicates that the tree must have lived for a long time after the Aboriginal people removed the bark.
The second thing that indicates this long period of time is the large branch that grew from the bottom of the scar in response to the trauma the tree suffered by the removal of the bark. This branch is called an epicormic stem and it is a common feature of scarred trees that suffered major trauma. This one has been cut off, but you can see that it was a large and thick branch.
Although this is a long dead tree which has deteriorated much over the years, at the bottom of the scar you can still see remnants of the smooth heartwood that was revealed when the bark was removed. Most of the wood between the overgrowth has rotted now but originally it would have been a smooth surface.
If scarred trees live long enough, the overgrowth may completely cover the scar. By then both sides will meet in the middle and will appear as a line down a trunk made bulbous by the depth of the overgrown bark.
There is an invaluable field manual on Aboriginal Scarred Trees in NSW available online from the NSW Department of Heritage and Environment. And I am indebted to Brad Welsh, the National Parks and Wildlife Service’s Aboriginal Heritage Officer for the Central Coast and Hunter Regions who visited our property in early August to confirm the first two trees we had identified as being Aboriginal scarred trees and who opened my eyes to this magnificent tree hiding in plain sight.