Welcome to Life Images by Jill

Welcome to Life Images by Jill.........Stepping into the light and bringing together the images and stories of our world. I am a photographer, writer and multi-media artist.
Focussing mainly on Western Australia and Australia, I am seeking to preserve images and memories of the beautiful world in which we live and the people in it.



Saturday 17 June 2023

Walking through the mallet trees in the Dryandra Woodland, Western Australia

 Hi everyone - I hope you and yours are doing well. Last time we met I took you to the Dryandra Woodland National Park where we met an echidna. If you missed it you can see it by clicking here - Meeting an Echidna in the Dryandra Woodland

This week we are going back to Dryandra to learn about the brown mallet tree industry. 

Have you ever wondered where the hard wood of your axe handle came from? In the past in Western Australia it may have been harvested from brown mallet plantations in the Dryandra Woodland. Many of the walk trails in Dryandra pass through stands of mallet trees. 

It is believed the name mallet is derived from the Aboriginal word ‘maalok’.

The Brown Mallet - Eucalypt astringens - is a straight, slender tree growing to 15-20 metres with cream to pale yellow flowers in summer. It typically grows on clay soils below breakaways and is easily recognised by curling flakes of brown bark revealing smooth coppery new bark. You can see the bark in this picture. 

The bark has a 55% tannin content, one of a group of chemicals that prevents other plants germinating, resulting in bare earth under the trees. This is known as allelopathy which reduces competition for nutrients, water and light. The trees dense canopy screens out sunlight, further inhibiting undergrowth.

In the early to mid-1900s mallet bark was harvested for the leather tanning industry.

By 1929 natural stands of mallet had almost disappeared due to fire damage, land clearing for agriculture, and settlers over-stripping immature trees for bark for extra income. This prompted the Forest Department to establish plantations to preserve the species and ensure a supply of bark.

Between the 1925 and 1962 about 19,000 acres (7,600 hectares) of mallet were planted in what is now known as Dryandra, north-west of Narrogin. It is the only endemic hardwood plantation in Western Australia. During the Depression the Government’s sustenance labour scheme employed men to clear land and plant mallet. Six to seven men walking in a line sowed approximately 10 acres of mallet seed per day.

Mallets regenerate from seed, but are easily killed by fire so the Forest Department built five fire lookout towers. The remains of two of these can be seen at the start of the Lol Grey walk trail and on Contine Hill. Wide firebreaks were essential as the radiant heat from a fire 20-60 metres away can kill a stand of mallet. 

20kms from the Dryandra campsites, Contine Hill has a picnic area, walk trails, information about the life of the lookout keepers, and expansive elevated views over trees and paddocks. 

Demand for mallet bark declined in the 1960s due to cheaper synthetic products. Despite its strength and straight grain mallet wood wasn’t considered viable for a timber industry except for tool handle manufacture, fence posts and firewood, and a few minor industries including musical instruments and walking sticks.

The strength of the mallet wood has been determined to be as hard as, if not harder, than the American hickory. 

Unfortunately mallet is susceptible to termite attack, so they began soaking the mallet fence posts in creosote and oil which proved very effective. You can still see mallet fence posts in use today. 

Between 1942 and 1944, Mr Cohen ran an axe-handle manufacturing business in Midland. In the 1960s local farmer, Arthur Hunter, started manufacturing tool heads and handles from wandoo, powderbark and brown mallet, producing about 100,000 handles a year. The excess wood was used for fence posts and firewood ensuring the complete utilisation of the wood.

The sowing of mallet for commercial purposes ceased in 1955, when the Government realised the conservation and tourism importance of Dryandra. However it wasn’t until 17 January 2022 that Dryandra was declared a National Park. Today the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) work to balance the Dryandra Woodland Management Plan with environment conservation strategies.  

There are a number of walk trails in Dryandra of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. The 3.3km Kawana loop trail takes you through brown mallet plantations.

The 23km Darwinia Drive has five interpretive stopping places describing the woodlands and the interdependence of species.

The seventeen woodland blocks, totalling 28,000 hectares, that make up The Dryandra Woodland National Park is one of the largest and most valuable conservation areas of the western wheatbelt. Considered a biodiversity hotspot with more than 850 plant species, the woodland protects many threatened animal species, like the numbat, woylie and phascogale.

Here is one of the Dryandras - Golden Dryandra – Banksia nobilis – one of the Dryandra varieties in the park for which the park is named. 

I can't help it - I love bark!

I have been asked if didgeridoos were made out of mallet trees. I am thinking that they could have been in southern Western Australia, particularly as they are susceptible to termite attack. But I really don't know. But I know I love the music of the didgeridoo - particularly if we hear someone playing one when we have been camping. 

From the net - Traditionally, a didgeridoo was made from a eucalyptus tree that was eaten out by termites. In the northern part of Australia, where the didgeridoo originated, the type of eucalyptus tree was usually the Wooly Butt gum, or, another kind the Stringy Box gum. murruppi.com/how-a-didgeridoo-is-made

I was also asked about peeling bark - and found this on the netShedding eucalyptus tree bark may help keep the tree healthy. As the tree sheds its bark, it also sheds any mosses, lichens, fungi, and parasites that may live on the bark. Some peeling bark can perform photosynthesis, contributing to the rapid growth and overall health of the tree. Gardeningknowhow.com

Where is it: Dryandra is 31 kms north west of Narrogin and 173kms south east of Perth, via the York-Williams Road or the Wandering-Narrogin Road.

Caravan, camper trailer and tent camping at Gnaala Mia and Congelin Dam campsite. Drop toilet, bbqs, no power or water. Cottages at Lions Dryandra Woodland Village.

More information: DBCA:Explore Parks -  https://exploreparks.dbca.wa.gov.au/park/dryandra-woodland-national-park

Thank you so much for stopping by. I value your comments and look forward to hearing from you. I will try to visit your blogs in return. Have a wonderful week. 

I am linking up to the link-ups below. Please click on the links to see fabulous contributions from around the world - virtual touring at its best!

Monday 5 June 2023

Meeting an Echinda in the Dryandra Woodland National Park, Western Australia

He wasn't waiting for anyone to take his photo -  this hurrying bundle of spines. We have just returned from a couple of nights in the Dryandra Woodland National Park, just over 2 hours from where we live in the south west of Western Australia. 

We had a quick visit during Easter, but wanted to return again for a longer stay. Unfortunately we needed to come home after only two nights due to weather reports forcasting heavy rain and thunderstorms. We were dissapointed to cut our trip short, but glad we came home early as it has been raining and blowing ever since. You can see some of our earlier trip by clicking here. - Time Out in The Dryandra bushland-April 2023

In case you didn't recognise him - this bundle of spines in the picture is an Australian echidna - Tachyyglossus Aculeatus - just one of the creatures you might be lucky to see walking in the Dryandra bushland.  

There are a number of marked loop walking tracks in Dryandra ranging from 1km to 12.5km, with varying degrees of difficulty - from level and easy slopes to steep rocky slopes. Walkers please be aware of your own capabilities, wear good walking shoes and a hat, and carry water. 

And whilst echidnas are fairly common, they blend into the surrounds so easily you need to be on the lookout. When they hear you approach they more than likely will roll up into a ball and stay still. You can't see me! 

There are two types of echidna (pronounced i-kid-na) – the Long-beaked Echidna (native to New Guinea), and the Short-beaked echidna (found in Australia). So the one in Western Australia is the short-beaked echidna.

After taking a couple of closeup snaps I moved away and he cautiously lifted his head and then high-tailed it out of there off through the bush. I got ahead of him, and crouched down, and he almost ran straight into me, at the last minute ducking behind the tree I was crouching behind. 

You can see his long snout in this picture. Echidnas have a long sticky tongue about 15 cm long which is used for slurping up ants, worms and insect larvae. 

Here are a few fun facts from Brisbane Kids website. 

  • The echidna and the Australian platypus are the only living egg-laying mammal species. They lay one egg at a time. 
  • The Short-beaked Echidna is featured on the Australian 5cent piece.
  • Echidnas ranges from 35-52 cm in length and can weigh up to 6 kg.
  • Echidna’s spines are actually long, tough, hollow hair follicles. They also have shorter fur to keep them warm. 
  • When under threat, they will roll up into a ball of radiating spines to protect themselves or dig themselves to safety.
  • The echidna’s scientific name, Tachyglossus actually means ‘fast tongue.’
  • Echidnas have claws for digging. 
  • Echidna babies are called ‘puggles.’ (such a cute name!)
  • Echidnas have been known to live for up to 50 years in captivity, and 45 years in the wild.
One other thing I learnt about them on the weekend that I hadn't really considered before.... Echidnas can walk very fast despite their short legs and they wobble as they walk - my excuse for the blury quills on my pics - that and the low light. 

And in case you were wondering: Are hedgehogs and echidnas in the same family?  In spite of echidnas' outward resemblance to hedgehogs, the two animals are not related and belong to separate mammalian orders. Britannica.com

And a few more facts from the net:  a-z-animals.com/animals/echidna/

Here are a few more facts I found on the net - 

We stayed at the 
Gnaala Mia campground, and did a couple of walks, as well as the 23km Darwinia Drive that has marked stopping points, from where we did a bit of bush wandering hoping to see echidna's and the elusive numbat. (unfortunately we didn't see any this time around, but think it might have been too cold) 

There are two campgrounds suitable for caravans, camper trailers and tents, and there are cottages and group facilities at the the Lions Dryandra Woodland Village.  The campgrounds have no power or water, but do have basic camp kitchens with BBQ and long drop toilets. Please take your rubbish awayt with you. Minimal cost applies.  Each site has a picnic table and camp fire ring (some wood is supplied). 

And the setting is beautiful. 

I jumped out of bed in my jarmies, a thick coat and my ugg boots to take a few pics of the fog through the eucalypt trees in the morning light, and then jumped straight back into bed to warm up again. So cold. But we had beautiful weather for bushwalking, and a campfire at night to toast marshmallows - if you sit quietly you might have a Woylie come into your camp! 

And of course there were wildflowers - Banksias mainly - but that will be for another time. 

You might light to look at some of my previous posts about Dryandra: 

Thank you so much for stopping by. I highly recommend a visit to Dryandra - only about 2 hours drive from Perth. 

I value your comments and look forward to hearing from you. I will try to visit your blogs in return. Have a wonderful week. 
I am linking up to the link-ups below. Please click on the links to see fabulous contributions from around the world - virtual touring at its best!