Significant trees on campus

April 15 / 156


A recent walk hosted by the Association of Women on Campus at the University of Melbourne (AWCUM) has revealed the surprising richness of the Parkville campus grounds.


The Parkville campus has over 2000 trees and 10,000 shrubs, conservatively valued at $50 million. There are eight trees included on the National Trust Significant Tree Register, and 68 on the City of Melbourne’s Exceptional Tree Register.


Virginia McNally, arborist/horticultural technician, Campus Services, recently took AWCUM members on a fascinating walking tour of the campus’ significant trees and gardens, exploring another side of the University’s enduring legacy.


Covering about 47 acres, the University grounds were first laid out in 1856. One of the surviving gardens from that time is the System Garden, the oldest operating systematic garden in Australia. Designed by Edward La Trobe Bateman – of Carlton and Fitzroy Gardens, Ripponlea and Heronswood fame – according to a system of botanical classification, the garden was commissioned by the University’s first Botany professor, Professor Fredrick McCoy, as a teaching aid. 


One of the most well-known trees on campus is actually the offspring of the original tree planted by Sir Frederick in 1908. The Cabbage Tree (Cussonia spicata) in Cussonia Court, between the Old Arts building and the Old Quadrangle, was split in half by a severe storm in January 1985. The other half was propped up for three years before succumbing to disease at the age of 80, and then the University gardeners transplanted a self-seeded juvenile from Redmond Barry Courtyard in 1989.


By far the oldest trees on campus are the Red River Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) near the sportsgrounds. Dating from before European settlement, these magnificent trees are also part of Billibellary’s Walk.


The South Lawn, underground carpark, and other areas of the grounds revealed other fascinating stories.


It’s the sense of history and connection to the campus that prompted AWCUM to approach Virginia McNally for the tour.


“It was terrific, reminding us of the legacy of the University, connecting us physically to its history”, said Jennifer Henry, AWCUM president.


“There are hundreds of years of history here,” said Dr Henry, whose family has attended the University for four generations, “when my great grandfather was here in the 1920s, some of these trees were already old then”. 


AWCUM is open to women across the University, including staff and students, and holds monthly events, including curator tours of the many cultural collections on campus, introductory dance classes, beer and bacon making workshops, and film nights.


A grounds walk can be booked through Virginia McNally or Tim Uebergang or



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