Woodlands Historic Park
Sugar Gum Plantation

See area 4 on the Aerial Photo Map.

Red Gum Killed by Sugar Gums in Greenvale Sanatorium Plantation
Red Gum Killed by Sugar Gums in Greenvale Sanatorium Plantation

The Sugar Gum plantation, intended to provide firewood for Greenvale Sanatorium, was sown in seven sections of 15 acres each, between 1939 and 1947. This was done by hand broadcasting the seed after ploughing and harrowing. While most sowing was of Sugar Gum, other species were also sown in one or two years - Mahogany Gum, Yellow Gum, Black Box, Grey Box, Yellow Box and Manna Gum. The latter three species already occurred on the surrounding land, although the seed was supplied by the Forestry Commission and presumably not collected locally. Only a few small Black Box trees and no Yellow Box can be found in the plantation. While there are Grey Box trees within the plantation, they may be original rather than planted.

While most of the plantation area appears to have been "logged out" before sowing, there are a number of dead Red Gums which would have been alive in 1940. Some Red Gums do survive within the plantation area. In the past, Park staff used to remove the Sugar Gums from around some of these to stop the Sugar Gums from killing them.

Flowers of Western Golden-tip in the plantation.
Western Golden-tip (Goodia medicaginea) at Woodlands Historic Park

The section outlined in blue on the map is very different from the rest of the plantation, with Mahogany Gum and Yellow Gum the main tree species. Sugar Gums do not appear to have been planted in this area, although they are encroaching at the edges. Unlike the rest of the plantation it contains patches of perennial grass, some consisting mainly of native Weeping Grass or Spear Grass and some consisting of the weed Panic Veldt Grass (which is shade loving and throughout the park often occurs under mature Red Gums).

In the lower (northern) part of this section there are a number of live red gums as well as some dead ones. In the highest (southerly) part the Mahogany Gums appear to have grown to maturity then died. As well as native grass this area has native broad-leaf ground covers such as Stinking Pennywort and Pink Bindweed. There is a large patch of the shrub Shiny Cassinia which is not seen in the rest of the park apart from where it has been planted. A number of plants of the shrub Western Golden-Tip, rare in Victoria, also came up in this area around 2014 and produced a copious amount seed before they died. They are short-lived and normally only germinate after fire.

Shiny Cassinia in the plantation.
Shiny Cassinia (Cassinia longifolia) at Woodlands Historic Park

Seed falling from the mature trees of the plantation has resulted in Sugar Gums saplings all around it, with the distance from the parent trees being greatest on the south side. Yellow Gum saplings also occur on the sanatorium land.

There have been proposals to sell off the Sugar Gums for timber, with the proceeds used to re-vegetate the area. While this would stop the Sugar Gums from invading surrounding areas, there several points of concern:

While large scale clearing of the plantation is problematic, it is highly desirable to remove a strip a strip of trees adjacent to the sanatorium land to prevent the sugar gums from impacting this area. The north-east and south-west corners of the plantation should also be removed, as well as any trees close to mature Red Gums. In the case of the Yellow Gum/Mahogany gum area, these trees should be killed gradually but removal of logs should only occur if it can be done without damage to the existing native grass. Natural regeneration can be expected to occur in this area.

Currently, trees in the plantation are felled near the Parks Victoria work centre and in other apparently random locations to provide chain-saw training to emergency services workers. Parks Victoria receives no benefit from this and the timber cannot be sold.