Bull Oak Story
Bull Oak (Cardwellia sublimis Northern Silky Oak) – by Madeleine Faught
My birth name is Cardwellia sublimis, but my friends have always called me Bull Oak for short. As a tiny seedling I began my life in this great forest called the Daintree. I grew strong in the close company of many other rainforest friends. Bathed by the misty shadow of Thornton Peak we grew together – a forest of trees with many names and creatures who shared the bounty of our seeds and fruit.
My home country. A happy place to grow. Even when I was almost trampled by a Cassowary when I was still too young to offer any resistance. That was quite frightening, but not nearly as frightening as when our area of forest was taken over by humans who decided that the soil was more important than our forest and its inhabitants. They thought the ground beneath our lush canopy should be used for grazing and growing ‘useful plants’, not just a whole bunch of trees that served no purpose other than feeding Cassowaries, musky rat kangaroos, fig parrots and many more.
Bulldozers and chain saws and various killing machines cut deeply into the heart of my country. I saw so many of my rainforest friends fall to the earth and be dragged away in chains. By chance, I survived the clearing that took place, but I cried myself to sleep every night because of the devastation to my forest home and the scars the humans had left on my landscape. I was so lonely. Rainforest trees are gregarious. We like the company of friends and relations. They are very important to our well-being.
Suddenly an eruption of Oil Palm seedlings replaced my rainforest friends. Oil palms are very greedy. They would seed and spread and seed and spread until I found myself almost entirely surrounded by a forest of palms from some alien place. Long gone were my old friends Licuala and Black Palm. Black Palm always had the best stories to tell. These oil palms only cared about all the money they would make for the humans. Their stories were boring, repetitive, and sad. Their words as sharp as their thorny stems.
I spent years desperately trying to hold onto my own little piece of ground, but the oil palms seemed unstoppable. Until the day my home country was sold to other humans. A sign went up saying that this ground now belonged to Rainforest Rescue. This sounded promising …
One wet season later and my home began to change again; this time for the better. Many people, including children, started digging holes and planting rainforest trees. Lots and lots of rainforest trees. The oil palms were seen as noxious weeds and had to go. In their place, seedling rainforest was planted or allowed to regenerate. Even I could see that my life was about to change … for the better.
I’ve become a grandfather tree in this young rainforest, my canopy creating protection and well being for a host of creatures and tender regenerating seedlings. Cassowaries stroll by my substantial trunk, looking for fruit among the leaf litter. They are wonderful birds. They love this young growing rainforest as much as I do. My home has a proper traditional name now. Kurranji Bubu. Cassowary ground. A good strong name for my home country. The humans that helped this rainforest grow come to visit, too. Occasionally I get a hug from one of them … I am, after all, a survivor.
Now a guardian of this green wonderland, I am the one who tells the stories of our families … from long ago … from before human time began.
Cardwellia sublimis is also called the Northern Silky Oak due to the beautiful grain and colour of its wood. Historically logged and turned into furniture and building materials, Cardwellia sublimis would have experienced an ever-decreasing numbers.
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