Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Published December 2nd 2019
Largest Living Red Gum in the SE of SA
Big Red is a tree. It was named the largest living River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) in the south-east of South Australia in a competition in 1996 conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in association with Greening Australia. The competition was run to publicise the importance of the species and to also highlight the need to protect our continent's old trees and to plant new ones.
The river red gum is unique to the Australian bush, growing throughout the country. They are magnificent - typically growing up to 35 metres high with a circumference of (usually) 1 to 3 metres. Big Red's circumference was measured to at a massive 11.6 metres with the tree soaring skyward at 39 metres. The tree is a giant in a landscape of gigantic trees. The second-largest tree recorded is literally steps away from Big Red. Just 110 metres away, the other tree has a trunk girth of 11.22 metres.
Big Red, aged at somewhere between 800 and 1000 years old, was burnt out at the base way before European settlement to the area. The hollowed trunk can fit several people standing up. It was most likely used as housing or storage. In more modern days, it was used as a change room for those wanting to swim or paddle in the adjacent waters of Mullinger Swamp.
The tree was measured again in 2008 and showed that it was still growing. The girth was measured at 12.2 metres and a height of 42.0 metres and it is thought that this tree has the largest timber mass of any of its kind in Australia.
Experts hope that this majestic tree will still be alive and standing in 50 years time. But, it may not survive another 100 due to climate change's higher temperatures, lower rainfall and soil moisture. The depletion of groundwater for irrigation could also impact the longevity of our mighty River Red Gums. The twigs that lay at the tree's base are most likely hundreds and hundreds of years old! To lose these bush skyscrapers would be tragic.
Mullinger Swamp Conservation Park is a protected area near the township of Kybybolite, approximately 25 kilometres from Naracoorte in South Australia. The swamp is a popular spot for nature lovers, geologists and bird watchers. There are picnic tables and information signs, but no toilets, no drinking water and no other facilities.
The land under the swamp is known for its many "runaway holes". Occasionally, the water in the lagoon breaks its banks and release the 'plugs' which keep the water in. In the past, some locals in nearby Kybybolite have reported that the cutlery in their kitchen drawers rattle when the waters gurgle down through the holes and into the enormous cave systems underground. Currently, there are sandbags at certains points around the swamp, which stops the lagoon from completely emptying.
Interestingly - the dirt road leading into Mullinger Swamp straddles the South Australian/Victorian border.
Big Red is the region's best kept secret tourist attraction. You'll find it near the entrance to Mullinger Swamp. There's an information sign that points you in the right direction. The tree is on private property, but visitors are very welcome to enter and take some time to visit with this mighty tree. Please remember to shut the gate.
The South East is a perfect spot for a weekend getaway from the city. At around 4 hours of driving time from Adelaide, it's just beyond the distance for a day trip. Take 2 or 3 days off, head to Naracoorte and have a terrific long weekend away from home.