André Brett: Some of the Choicest Specimens of Plant Life: Tree-Planting by the Government Railways of Australasia pre-WWI

Railways in Australasia have depended on forest resources for their existence. Railways, however, did not simply become large customers of timber-getters for sleepers, firewood, and other timber products. This article will show that government railways in each of Britain’s seven Australasian colonies were, to varying extents, active planters of trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses. It will place particular emphasis on planting to improve station environments. Railways opened in each colony between the mid-1850s and late 1870s, and planting occurred at first for practical reasons to protect embankments and mitigate against erosion. Trees soon went up on station grounds to provide shade for staff and passengers, and by the 1890s railway officials took increasing interest in beautifying stations with ornamental plants. Some established their own nurseries; others worked with government forestry authorities, who supplied thousands of trees in Victoria and Western Australia. In some places, railways hired gardeners or created prizes to encourage stationmasters to plant their own gardens. Success, however, was mixed for a range of factors, from planting unsuitable plants to growth that obscured the line of sight for engine drivers. I conclude that the ambitions of railway staff were achieved incompletely during this period.

Anton Sveding: Plant Trees and Grow Money

At the beginning of the 1920s, foresters feared a timber famine, a shortage of wood, to strike New Zealand in the imminent future. As part of securing an ample supply of timber, the New Zealand State Forest Service (SFS) undertook an extensive planting scheme to promote farmers to plant trees and establish timber plantations. This paper examines the propaganda published by the SFS, highlighting how the SFS portrayed the looming shortage of timber – while a national threat – as a financial opportunity for farmers.

Ben Wilkie: The Deforestation and Reforestation of Victorian Volcanoes

Too steep to graze and too rocky to plough, volcanoes represent unique case studies: they can be located on both private and public land, their slopes present discrete ecological refugia in an otherwise profoundly altered pastoral and agricultural landscape, and the historic denudation and more recent revegetation of their hills have been variously the result of both government intervention and local community action. A distinctive presence on the landscape, the historic environments of volcanoes are also often well-represented in literary and artistic source materials. This paper examines both the deforestation and reforestation of volcanoes in western Victoria since the mid-nineteenth century. It explores the causes of deforestation and the motives for and outcomes of reforestation, including the historicity and historical grounding of contemporary discourses surrounding fidelity to nature.

David Freudenberger and Ian Rayner: Replanting Woodlands in Australia – a Volunteer-rich Process

Over the past few decades there have been many thousands of revegetation projects aimed at addressing two centuries of over-clearing, particularly across the vast grassy woodlands so favoured for crops and pastures. Most of these projects have involved volunteers assisting with native tree and shrub propagation and planting. Each project has its own story of people and place. Here we share the tale of how so many citizens of Canberra committed their time and energies to replanting 500 ha of former pine plantation devastated by the firestorm of January 2003. Through their efforts a diverse grassy woodland is thriving and protecting one of Canberra’s essential water supplies.

Fiona Firth: Trees on Farms: Tree-planters in the Bega Valley

Beginning in the early 1980s, a volunteer tree planting group encouraged and assisted farmers in the Bega Valley to plant shelter belts of local native tree and shrub species on their properties. As well as getting trees in the ground, this project created community connections between mainstream farmers and new settlers (with ‘green’ leanings) with the aim of demonstrating to farmers that trees on their farms might improve their farm productivity, not detract from it.

Gabriel Hemerey: The Future Sylva

In 1664 London, even while copies of John Evelyn’s magisterial book Sylva were rolling off the presses under the auspices of the Royal Society, news of another major plague outbreak on mainland Europe reached the city. Evelyn’s mission for King Charles II was to inspire a revival of interest in silviculture, including more afforestation in Britain. His work was driven by a strategic need for timber to aid recovery from the civil war and to support Britain’s growing ambitions on the world stage. Fast forward 356 years, the world is facing a new pandemic in the form of Covid-19. Britain remains one of the least-wooded countries in Europe and has one of the lowest tree counts per citizen anywhere in the world. Meanwhile, our knowledge of forest ecosystems and understanding of the complexity of the natural world, such as the microbiome, is helping us care for our forests with increasing competence. Advances in bioengineering are bringing ever more efficient applications for woody biomass and cellulose that might help us mitigate and adapt; to live more sustainably. Yet, the world teeters on the threshold of a climate emergency while globally an area of natural forest seven times larger than Britain is deliberately deforested every year and millions more hectares degraded by wildfires. This paper explores the notion that is not silvicultural knowledge that impedes sustainable development but human culture. As the saying goes, forestry is more about people than trees.

John Taylor and Jane Lennon: Sylva Anew: A Discourse of Forest-Trees and the Propagation of Timber in the Bottle Creek Estate

The paper first records the settlement of the Upper Clarence River region in New South Wales and describes the landscape changes as forests were cleared for settlement and how the advent of Managed Investment Schemes in the 1990s led to forestry companies buying farms and planting them with thousands of hectares of eucalypts. When the schemes failed many of the plantations were returned to agriculture. The authors bought a property at Bottle Creek, a tributary of the Clarence, in 2007 as a retirement project. They conserved the existing forest, restored the riparian vegetation and on the cleared land planted 12 ha of spotted gum and Sydney blue gum aiming to produce poles. It proved a satisfying and enjoyable venture with a lot of hard work and many non- financial returns. But the restoration of forest to the cleared landscape will probably last only one rotation, in the long term a minor perturbation in the Bottle Creek landscape.

John Dargavel: A Salute to John Evelyn

I salute John Evelyn (1620–1706) with great respect for writing Sylva and forhis public service in war and plague. After years of exile, he came to prominence during the Restoration and wrote Sylva (1664) in response to a shortage of naval timber. In it he urges tree-planting to restore the ‘waste and destruction’ of the woods. It marks the start of modern forest science and became the world’s most published book on trees. Evelyn was a Commissioner for Sick and Wounded Seamen and Prisoners during two Dutch Wars. His exhausting work was compounded by the plague.

John Dargavel: Are Plantations the Answer?

We need wood: are plantations our answer? Whether they can be is a practical and scientific matter. Whether they are a good answer, and for whom are economic and political matters in the context of their time. Whether they are desirable or inevitable in future is a matter for reflection. In this paper I set out John Evelyn’s 1660s position in Sylva, Australian positions in the 1990s and 2020s, and conclude with a reflection on their larger context. They featured in calls to protect the ecology of Australia’s forests, and now for their carbon credits to off-set emissions wrapping the world. They exhibit the great paradox: we strive with ingenuity to intensify production, while we seek to restore a natural world so that we can live in it.

Libby Robin: On the Verge of Isolation

This short reflection written from lockdown considers our “iso-project”, which was to revegetate some of the verge around our house and garden. Even very modest ecological corridors connect people and other animals with plants and history. Gentle pressure like this redirects both biological and social systems, perhaps enabling them to reassemble positively after the Covid rupture.

Michael Roche: John Evelyn’s Sylva in New Zealand

Evelyn’s Sylva was initially invoked in popular circles in New Zealand. It was not until 1932 that forester Frank Foster made any systematic comment involving Sylva. Subsequent references to Sylva by foresters in New Zealand are identified. These initial advocacy and forestry references are placed into their contemporary context. Sylva in New Zealand emerges as more of a metaphor than a strategy for forestry

Sybil Jack: Evelyn’s Garden of Paradise

John Evelyn was important in the vibrant intellectual world of the seventeenth century. In Britain, it focused on the Royal Society which was concerned with experimental science and philosophical argument. Subjects like astronomy, botany, chemistry were being re-examined with the aid of innovations like the microscope, and discoveries were being published. His Sylva, 1664was part of a series of other firsts such as Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, 1665. Evelyn considered horticulture as the form of knowledge that included all others and he started his most significant undertaking, the unfinished Elysium Britannicum (or Royal Gardens) in 1650. He experimented on plants both local and exotic in his laboratory and communicated widely with others of all degrees who shared his obsessions. Sylva was an element of this that he published when the problem of wood supply for the navy was critical. Elysium (Paradise) was not the first work directed at the botanical as well as the philosophical aspects of gardens, but it reflects the significant changes being introduced at the time and sections appeared in his and other published and unpublished works. This paper sets Sylva in this wider context.