Reflecting on Desert Oaks for Planet Ark’s National Tree Day

Foresters name their favourite species.

Sun 30 Jul 23


Planet Ark’s National Tree Day started in 1996 and has grown into Australia’s largest community tree planting and nature care event.

It’s a call to action for all Australians to get their hands dirty and give back to the community.

While every day can be Tree Day, the celebration of Schools Tree Day and National Tree Day occur on the last Friday and Sunday in July – July 28 and July 30.

Celebrating these special days, I thought it might be appropriate if my new post on the Forest Leaves Blog was a story about a tree.

It is the desert oak, one of my favourite tree species, which reminds me of a query I got from Argentina-based forester Evan Shield one day:

“Just how many favourite trees do you have, Roger?”

It was a pleasure to enhance the text with superb photographs by Jack Bradshaw, Andrew Burbidge and Pat Fitzgerald.

These, I think, capture the beauty of the tree within the beauty of the landscape in which it grows.

If you have not had the good fortune to explore or travel through Central Australia, you will feel you have been there after viewing these photos and reflecting on some of the authors I have quoted in the story.

Editor’s note: Brisbane forester Dr Gary Bacon tells us Roger’s references to the desert oak well and truly caught his eye.

Recently, Gary had much exposure to the photogenic tree in central Australia, and some of his examples appear here.

The Desert Oak as photographed by Wood Central contributor Dr Gary Bacon in Central Australia. (Photo Credit: Dr Gary Bacon)

He also asks the question:

“What is the difference between the ages of the pencil crowns and broad crowns?”

“According to the locals at Yulara, there is a 100-year difference, and I have never felt a more coarse oak branchlet, with the ultra-small true leaves hard and sharp like small rose thorns.”

Allocasuarina decaisneana, commonly known as desert oak, desert sheoak or kurkara by the Anangu People, is a species of flowering plant in the family Casuarinaceae and is endemic to Central Australia.

It is a dioecious tree that typically grows to a height of 10–16 m (33–52 ft) and has long, drooping branchlets, the leaves reduced to scales in whorls of four, the mature fruiting cones 28–95 mm (1.1–3.7 in) long containing winged seeds (samaras) 8.5–17 mm (0.33–0.67 in) long.

The bark of the Desert Oak as photographed by Wood Central contributor Dr Gary Bacon in Central Australia. (Photo Credit: Dr Gary Bacon)


  • Roger Underwood

    Roger Underwood is a former district and regional forest manager in Western Australia and a specialist in bushfire operations, policy and history. He was for 20 years the chairman of the Bushfire Front, an organisation dedicated to minimising bushfire damage in Western Australia.


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