Hybrid trees

Asked February 10, 2020, 6:44 AM EST

Hi l live in arid outback Australia with many CMTs ( culturally modified trees ) A few of these are epiphyte trees with a Eucalyptus host & other native "guest" trees. Basically there are 2 different tree species sharing one root system some may be centuries old. Can you give me any information on this phenomenon? These hybrids are only found in old Indigenous camps with permanent water or close to old Aboriginal roads and songlines.

Outside United States

4 Responses

Thanks for using the Ask an Expert System.

I appreciate the opportunity to learn about something I was not aware of in the past.

I can tell you that I have not been able to find any other report of so-called hybrid trees as culturally modified trees. All the reports I have found about CMTs indicate that these are single trees that have been scarred by indigenous people. For example, a research paper The archaeology of culturally modified trees: Indigenous economic diversification within colonial intercultural settings in Cape York Peninsula, northeastern Australia.

Another paper is An Examination of Indigenous Australian Culturally Modified Trees in South Australia

I have seen other reports from the western U.S. and Scandinavia about trees that had had bark pealed or carvings in the trunk.

A colleague of mine suggested, “They are not sharing one root system. The only way that happens is if one was grafted onto the other (and typically would have to be the same species or at least family).

I think one tree seeded into a cavity of another tree, grew a root system within the decayed section of the tree (also into the soil over time) and grew out of the cavity. That is what it looks like from the photos.” Vincent Cotrone, Urban Forester Penn State Cooperative Extension.

I do find the photos interesting and hope you will continue to investigate these trees.



Thank you David & Vincent, I am familiar with all Australian literature on CMTs and have my own website re scarred trees www.scartrees.com.au .Our archaeologists/ ethnographers are unwilling to visit or speculate on these Hybrid trees or Ring trees which is very frustrating. Older eucalypts here are always hollow & filled with dirt so make good planter boxes for seeds, the limiting factor being water. I am a gardener as well as a farmer and know that seedlings can germinate in wet seasons in strange places but to reach maturity without help would be vary rare given our average rainfall is less than 18 inches per year - in 2019 we had less than 4 inches (100 ml). Also the "guest" trees are varied (mostly Geijera parviflora) and if a fluke of nature wouldn't theybe randomly distributed not only found at old campsites? One indigenous Elder suggests they may represent unifying marriage ties (right way marriages) given most Gumtrees are male (Eucalyptus largiflorens & populnea) & the "guests" ( Wilga/dhiil, Wild orange/bambul, Whitewood/birah, Rosewood/boonery ) are female. I will continue to watch for these trees but wish I had some help. Yours appreciatively Jane

Hi Jane, Thanks for your response. I have enjoyed learning about your experience in Australia. I hope you can convince the archeologists/ethnographers to visit your property. It would be interesting to see what someone else who actually saw the trees had to say.
I enjoyed your website. You have some great photos.
It has been a pleasure corresponding with you.

Thanks David - I have included a photo of indig. Elder Jason Wilson looking at one of the tree in trees & what he had to say when I emailed him some pics. Also a google earth screenshot of the trees I have found or hope to refind (given the paddocks are thousands of acres with thousands of trees). You can see how these trees are limited to the paleo channel (with native wells) and the Aboriginal track aka Gingie road that made up part of the Kamilaroi (Gommeroi) songlines. The chances of any academic help in this country is about the same as the odds these 'hybrid' trees are a fluke of nature … best wishes jane