Portrait of an endangered scribbly gum woodland

Sprengelia small
Sprengelia sprengelioides, a slender shrub of the wet heath. Photo by Ray Carpenter.

Drive from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast, between the Glasshouse Mountains and Bribie Island, and you will pass through vast areas of exotic pine plantations. But it wasn’t always this way. Once there were miles of scribbly gum woodlands with a diverse heathy understorey. Today, this vegetation type is endangered: only 10-30% of its original extent remains, and very little is protected in reserves. It’s a beautiful woodland¹ type, and the subject of my next forest portrait.

Scribbly gum forest with diverse heathy understorey
Scribbly gum woodland with a diverse heathy understorey. Photo by Ray Carpenter.

Scribbly gum is the common name for Eucalyptus racemosa, so-named for the scribbly markings often left in the pale bark by the larvae of a moth (There’s a stand of scribbly gums in an urban park near my house which don’t have the scribbles – so I guess this means that the moths have never found these ones). The scribbly gum is not an endangered tree species in Queensland. It’s the special woodland formed by scribbly gums, combined with other tree species such as the pink bloodwood (Corymbia intermedia), and usually with a heathy understorey, which is endangered. This woodland type is described in south east Queensland as regional ecosystem 12.5.3

The map on the left shows all ‘endangered’ vegetation types (in purple) for the area between Beerburrum and Beerwah before clearing; the map on the right shows the extent of these vegetation types today. Note that most of this area was regional ecosystem type 12.5.3 before clearing.³

This woodland type – and the Wallum heath it is associated with – is a botanist’s paradise, since there is a high diversity of plant species, and many pretty flowers. Here’s some that were flowering when I did the preliminary work for the portrait.

Wallum geebung small
The Wallum geebung, Persoonia virgata. Photo by Ray Carpenter.
Conesticks small
Conesticks, also known as Petrophile shirleyae. Photo by Ray Carpenter.
Banksia aemula small
The Wallum banksia, Banksia aemula. Photo by Ray Carpenter.

So, as before, I took lots of photos and drew some sketches.

Scribbly gum tree forms
Scribbly gum and bloodwood tree forms.

Here’s a simple draft of the colour / composition I would be aiming for:

Scribbly gum preliminary sketch_small

As always, I needed to include some people in the picture, otherwise it’s hard to get an idea of scale. I think it also adds another dimension – of people immersed in, and enjoying the forests they are pictured in. So I always include people who are nature-lovers. This time I’ve included my cousin Belinda, and her two boys Rowan and Quinn. The finished forest portrait turned out like this:

Dry sclerophyll forest - scribbly gums at Beerwah (pastel)
Scribbly gum woodland with a diverse heathy understorey (RE 12.5.3)

And here’s a guide to some of the more recognizable species:

scribbly diagram1

  1. In Australia, the term ‘woodland’ is used for a treed ecosystem where the trees are relatively widely spaced, and the foliage cover of the tallest tree layer is less than 30%. The term ‘forest’ is reserved for denser stands of trees where foliage cover of the tallest tree layer is greater than 30%. For simplicity’s sake, I’m using the term ‘forest portrait’ for portraits of either forests or woodlands.
  2. Queensland has excellent vegetation mapping for much of the state. You can find out the pre-clearing or remnant vegetation types, and their status, for any given location by requesting a map here.
  3. You can create and view maps like these by using the Queensland Globe.

Reference: Leiper et al. 2008 Mangroves to Mountains. Revised Edition, Society for growing Australian Plants, Logan River Branch.

This post is one of a series about forest portraits, which begins with How to draw a forest Part 1. The next post in this series is Enter the jungle – a portrait of wet rainforest.

16 Responses

  1. Margaret

    I’m in Brisbane now on sabbatical, so will definitely hunt down some scribbly gums.
    Am super impressed with the flowering grass trees I’ve seen so far!

    • Paula Peeters

      Hey Margaret, you’ve come to south east Queensland at a great time for spring wildflowers – make sure you check out some Wallum heath in the next month or two. The montane heaths have some good blooms at the moment too. But don’t expect too many real mountains, we only have little hills here

  2. Manu Saunders

    Great post! I grew up visiting those forests, they are very special. The little pockets left around the tourist lookouts are still wonderful, especially when you get to the top and look out onto seas of pine – interesting thought on how tourism can help conservation 🙂

    • Paula Peeters

      Hi Manu, I’m really pleased you like the post, especially as you’re familiar with these woodlands. Thanks for commenting! Paula

  3. Jane

    Hello Paula, what an interesting post, and I especially love your beautiful forest portrait. What a talent you have! Those young boys are lucky to be in such a special place and now to be able to be reminded of it for a long time. I really enjoyed this.

    • Paula Peeters

      Hi Jane, thanks for your kind words about the picture and post, I’m glad you enjoyed both! Cheers Paula

  4. Dayna

    Each portrait makes me wish I could jump into the painting and explore. You’re really nailing them!

    • Paula Peeters

      Fabulous! Maybe one day there will be an interactive app that can be explored….

  5. Mary

    Your latest portrait of a scribbly gum woodland forest is both beautiful and educational. I hope you are keeping all these forest portraits for inclusion in a future publication. As developers and other green initiatives continue to impinge on our native vegetation and forests, these forest portraits will become a valuable reference source of what the bush once looked like.

    • Paula Peeters

      Hey Mary you’ve really hit on one of my passions there – trying to capture what a forest ‘is like’ in a way that starts with, but then goes beyond the science. Because you’re absolutely right – in the future, people will ask ‘what were those forests like?’ Hopefully they will be asking with a view to restoring ecosystems, and if so, we need to record them now – in words, pictures, facts, figures, everything – before it’s too late.

  6. carol donaldson

    it is so sad to see how our beautiful places are being destroyed for profit all over the world.

  7. Gail

    This is a beautiful portrait Paula. The scribbly gum is one of my favourites!

    • Paula Peeters

      Thanks Gail!

  8. Jane

    Hi Paula,
    I missed this post, Paula. Once again a beautiful, educational and instructional piece. I was fascinated by scribbly gums as a child and still enjoy seeing them a great deal on my walks. The heath is lovely when in flower also and of course grass trees are a favourite of mine also. Wonderful! J

    • Paula Peeters

      Thanks Jane. What do you mean you missed it? You’re here now, AND you left a lovely comment! It is a great pleasure to have my work appreciated by people like you who also love these forests. Cheers, Paula

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