And to complete the year’s diary in the life of a red gum . . .
By mid-November, it was clear that the flower crop on the red gum this year was very small. There was minimal scatter on the ground of operculae (the little caps shed when stamens burst out of the buds to form flowers). In addition, the numbers of surviving mature fruit were very low. So the losses due to the hail storm in September were very significant, coming on top of natural losses. Another contributing factor could be the fact that last year’s flowering was very dense, and river red gums have been reported as alternating heavy and light crops in consecutive years.
During December, the tree put most of its energy into forming new leaves, while shedding old ones. Debris on the ground was a mix of open fruit which had dropped their seeds, aborted buds and a light scatter of shed bud caps from flowering. Just one tiny seedling germinated, having found a niche in an orchid pot. In the last week of December, tiny new buds appeared amongst the new leaves.
In January 2015, it seemed that there would be mass seed rain from the red gum by this summer, based on the volume of flowers last year. Now in December 2015, there is no sign of the predicted dense fruit crop, and also very few flowers eventuated from the heavy bud crop. It will be interesting to see what proportion of the new bud crop will survive to flower in summer 2016.