I can recognise a coachwood tree, with its tall, straight trunk of smooth light grey bark. Horizontal ridges, a patchwork coat of lichen, tinged white, soft green, apricot. The larger trees have small buttresses.
But then, on this walk, interpretive labels appeared under trees that look to my untrained eye just like coachwood but claimed to be something else, rose walnut or some kind of crabapple perhaps. Rainforest tree identification is hard, particularly when the canopy is so far up so all we can see is bark.
Coachwood (ceratopetalum apetalum) is a common warm temperate rainforest tree. The wood is harvested for cabinet work, spars and masts in boats, and rifle butts, amongst other things. We pick up a fallen branch and break it open to inspect the wood – a fine and even grain, soft in colour, but I can’t detect the characteristic smell of the alternate name, scented satinwood.
The Coachwood Track starts at the Norm Jolly picnic area. Its a short easy walk, so take your time to pay your respects to the 800 year old giant tallowwoods (eucalyptus microcorys) that reach 55m into the sky with a girth of 8.5m. Old growth trees like these tallowwoods and coachwoods provide hollows for powerful owls and other creatures to nest. Because old growth forest is rare, hollow dependent species such as glossy black cockatoo are now threatened.
Norman Jolly (1882 – 1954) was a prominent forester from the 19th century, who went to Oxford as an early Rhodes scholar and returned to create the first forestry training course before becoming Commissioner for Forests in NSW in 1926. This memorial grove provides a seed bank and study area. Look for the small monument on the left side of the road as you leave the picnic area.
There’s a 6km mountain bike track, the Jump Up Track, that goes downhill from the Norm Jolly picnic area to the Platypus Flat campsite. We’ll have to come back with bikes and try it another time.