Though our forest contains lots of trees, really big, old trees are few in number. Without these big trees, generally Manna Gums and Blue Gums (E. viminalis and E. bicostata, respectively), the forest couldn’t support the Greater Glider families (Petauroides volans) that still live on Boundary Hill and that we so love to see when out night-searching.
So, whenever I hear a big tree come down in the forest, I get nervous. After one heavy rainfall event in December 2015 I heard a crashing of branches and heavy thump. What I found was not a fallen gum, but a large Narrow-leaf Peppermint (E. radiata) that had lost a major limb and half its trunk. Phew, at least the Greater Gliders were safe … or were they? Upon inspection, I noticed a possum with a long furry tail clinging to the inside of a former hollow, now split wide open. But it wasn’t a Greater Glider, it was a Mountain Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus cunninghami), also known as the Short-eared Brushtail Possum.
Inspection of the damaged tree and the fallen branch showed what had happened. The tree’s trunk had been weakened by fungus and termites and was rotten from the base up to the major branches. The hollow had formed where a spout in one of the major branches connected with the rotting core. Interestingly, it shows that even Peppermints can produce large enough hollows for big possums. Perhaps there are more hollows options in the forest for Greater Gliders than I’d thought!
The tree is now so lop-sided I’m not sure it will last much longer. Hopefully those possums will have found a new home by then.