February 2017 Field Visit – Berry Jerry

This month I visited another precinct of the Murrumbidgee Valley National Park: Berry Jerry.

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Berry Jerry is located along the Sturt Highway between Wagga Wagga and Narrandera, and like many of the reserves in the area is predominantly River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) woodland, with a creek passing through it that feeds into the Murrumbidgee River. There’s a highway rest stop with toilet facilities located just outside the entrance, so it’s a good spot for a day trip. You can park in the rest area or drive into the reserve itself.

The road in did have a few potholes though.

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I suspect this had a lot to do with last year’s floods, although I have no idea why anyone was driving anything in there when the road was wet enough to cause that degree of sinking. It’s perfectly dry now, but I did have some adventures getting my definitely-not-a-4WD car in and out along the damaged road; in retrospect I probably should have parked nearer the gate and walked in.

River Red Gum woodland
River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) woodland, Berry Jerry precint, Murrumbidgee Valley National Park

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There were Yellow Rosellas (Platycercus elegans) and White-winged Choughs (Corcorax melanorhamphoseverywhere. Yet, I somehow failed to get any decent photos of them. They were fun to watch though, I need to start taking a chair with me on field trips so I can just sit and watch things playing around me.

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I really liked the growth pattern of the sub-branches on this branch.

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And then I found something similar on a different tree further in. (Edit: A friend of mine has told me this is called ‘harping’ and is the result of past epicormic growth, as discussed below)

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I also saw a lot of fabulous tree hollows.

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And some holes in the ground that might be homes for invertebrates – ground-nesting bees perhaps?

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I suspect this one may have been the result of a fishing pole though.

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This month in Kimberley photographs decorative bark:

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Evidence of old claw marks on this one:

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As you may have already guessed from some of the pictures above, I headed down to the creek to have a look. It was very pretty, with a much lower water level at the end of a dry summer than I expect was in evidence last winter and spring.

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One of the inlets draining into the creek.

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On the creek bank I found a fallen tree exhibiting one of the really cool things about eucalypts:

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This is epicormic growth, which is a trait shared by many eucalypts and several other species world-wide, including oak trees. Simply put: most new growth happens in the canopy, at the actively growing tips of the branches, but the trees retain bud-producing tissue under the bark at points along the trunk and branches, which become active in response to damage or in other situations in which it seems prudent for the tree to put out as many new leaves as possible. This mechanism contributes greatly to the recovery of eucalypt trees after bushfires – if the tree has lost some or all of its leaves, and maybe even its branches, but is still alive, it will send out epicormic shoots in order to leaf up and resume photosynthesising food as quickly as possible. The new stems will eventually develop into new branches and replace any that have been lost, although a degree of natural thinning does occur along the way. So this tree in the pictures, which is no longer able to thrive by growing ‘up’ from the top of the original canopy, is compensating by sending out new leaf-bearing stems along the length of its trunk, which in theory will eventually thicken up to resemble a brace of young saplings growing from a fallen trunk – the precarious position of the tree, however, makes me suspect that it’s more likely to fall into the creek before that can happen.

It may manage to hang on for a while though, like this one of its neighbours:

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And that brings me to the end of my visit to Berry Jerry – see you again next month!

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2 thoughts on “February 2017 Field Visit – Berry Jerry

  1. A.M. Valenza March 13, 2017 / 12:07 pm

    I love the name of this place – like an ice cream flavor *snortles*

    I cannot believe the size of those potholes and the damage to the roads, yeesh! Woulda’ loved to see what caused that and how. I just keep imagining that scene from MM Fury Road with the War Rig and the tree. I can’t believe you managed to drive into that with without a big-ass truck! Oof! o__-

    I’m really intrigued by that tree growth formation, and I’m wondering if there’s a cool way I can incorporate into one of my stories. Hmmm. You know, I might’ve seen something like that once, but I wouldn’t have recognized it at the time. I’ll def have to look into it when I resume my hikes!

    *_* Bonus fact: I am dork for eucalyptus because it works better for me than an inhaler, but it’s real hard to get a hold of where I live, and also, super expensive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • riverinawildlife March 30, 2017 / 8:29 pm

      Sorry for the late reply, I haven’t managed to get online much for a few weeks.

      It does sound like ice-cream, doesn’t it? I don’t know where the name originates, it’s probably not anything nearly as fun as it sounds.

      I really shouldn’t have driven in with the road like that, it was a bit of a balancing trick in places, and I had to back up and turn around at one point, which was nerve-wracking. It’s sheer luck that I didn’t slip into a hole and damage my car. I’m very pleased I didn’t though.

      Be sure to let me know if you find any trees displaying epicormic growth in your patch of woods, I’d love to see photos. I’d likewise love to see if you manage to incorporate it into a story somehow.

      I love eucalyptus oil too, but I suspect it’s much easier to get hold of here. :/

      Liked by 1 person

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