Mystery ailment knocks off trees

A LOCALLY-BRED bottlebrush known as the “Kings Park Special” is mysteriously dying off in Vincent.

The Special is one of the Kings Park and Botanic Garden’s proudest plant achievements; internationally recognised as a “cultivar” distinct enough from its wild ancestors to deserve a special name of its own. 

It was developed from a seedling of “unknown origin” according to the park authority; selected, propagated and registered back in 1980. It’s good for bees, birds and butterflies, and is known for tolerating dry conditions or frost, flourishing in full sun, and coping with poor soil. 

But Vincent council’s latest report on tree removals showed six of the seven dead trees were Kings Park Specials, while a closely-related callistemon viminalis was deemed too sick to revive. 

• The Kings Park Special has been an international success story. This one (photo by wiki commons user Melburnian) is flourishing in Maranoa Gardens in Victoria.

Vincent mayor Emma Cole confirmed the parks team had noticed the bottlebrushes dying but the cause remained a mystery.

“We have had a qualified arboricultural assessment undertaken, however they cannot identify anything specific that is affecting them,” Ms Cole said.

“As the Kings Park Special is a cultivar, some of these varieties can be quite sensitive to environmental changes, such as a drop in the groundwater table.”

The council’s been trying to increase Vincent’s greenery under its Greening Plan, but the KPSs aren’t getting a second chance in these spots; they’ll mostly be replaced by weeping bottlebrushes and WA peppermints.

by DAVID BELL

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