ABR Eucalypt Fellowship: ‘Ambassadors from Another Time’ by Stephen Orr

First, I need to visit Dean Nicolle’s eucalypt arboretum. Four hundred rows of trees, four specimens of each species of Eucalyptus, Corymbia, and Angophora (the eucalypts) nestled together, sharing pollen and landscape, dropping limbs in the grass. Each group of trees is a result of the previous year’s fieldwork. The year 2000 was big: Nicolle this keeper of the keys to the eucalypts spent six months in Western Australia collecting seed.

But before my visit to the arboretum, there is a more personal detour to the adjacent Currency Creek cemetery. Here, my great-great-great-grandfather and -mother, asleep in the arms of God since 1901, Section: General, Niche:123, Permit/Lease: 357. It takes half an hour to find them, but here they are, under an old blue gum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon), their headstone replaced with a small block of concrete and a plaque giving them some sort of identity.

As we search the rows, four white gums collected from the Mallee. E. gracilis, from west of Blyth. Content to sit with family, on this hillside, so far from home. Forgotten, perhaps, but then again, I had never got around to visiting Andrew Darling Orr (I apologise for taking so long). Arriving in South Australia from Glasgow in 1867, Andrew settled in nearby Goolwa, building wooden boats. And his wife, Catherine what can I know about her? Excepting some Who Do You Think You Are? experience, something like accompanying Dean up and down the rows, from box to ironbark, lemon scented to river reds; from Cape York to Hobart.

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Published in October 2017, no. 395
Stephen Orr

Stephen Orr

Stephen Orr studied ecology at university before starting to write fiction. He has taught Biology, Agriculture, and English. He especially loves novels about science and our sometimes difficult relationship with the natural world. His most recent novel, The Hands (2015), describes a farming family trying to scratch a living from drought-affected grazing country.

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