Tom Parkinson's monthly column, introducing the diverse range of flora and fauna on show at Sanctuary Lakes.

This Autumn has seen Sanctuary Lake’s Resort Maintenance Manager Greg Fryer with an Arborist in tow, busily calculating a census on the numbers and species of trees growing on the Estate. Greg is still finalising the details but the gross figures are truly astonishing. There are over 4,000 trees within the 44 stages. A further 3,000 along the Boulevards, Entrances and Parks. And at a minimum, at least one tree in every resident’s garden. With 3,000 homes, that’s a further 3,000 trees. A truly conservative estimate gives us a remarkable 10,000 plus trees growing within our Estate. That’s one tree for every resident!

The most common and widely seen are the various species of Eucalyptus that meander through the Boulevards and Parks. The Entrance’s River Red Gums and the Simon Populares that dominate the Boulevard’s medium strip. The Pepper Trees by the Grand Canal. The Manchurian Pears in the Golf and Rec Club Car Park. The Spotted Gums, the White Cedars and of course the numerous species of Olives, all giving the Resort its distinctively natural appearance.

There are many other species of trees around the Estate that deserve a closer look. Some are a little less common, others still to reach maturity, but all are equally prominent within Sanctuary Lakes Resort. First up the Chinese Elm which can be seen around the Estate but are most predominant (Over a dozen trees) on a small patch of land between the Northern Boulevard Roundabout and the entrance to Eagle View

The Chinese Elm Ulmus Parvifolia

Considered to be the most splendid of all the world’s elms, the Chinese Elm or Lacebark Elm is a native of eastern Asia. Now is the perfect time to view them as the leaves are glowing in their autumnal yellow. With luck some of the small and often inconspicuous white flowers, that are produced in late summer, may still be visible. The trees can grow to 18 metres tall and a very wide 17 metres. The trunk has a handsome, flaking bark of mottled greys with tans and reds, giving rise to its other common name, the Lacebark Elm.

The Chinese Elm was introduced into Victoria by 1857. It has been proven to be a very hardy tree, highly resistant to the Dutch Elm Disease and is commonly used in street and park landscaping.

Norfolk Island Pine Araucaria Heterophylla

There are a reasonable number of Norfolk Pines scattered around the Estate, but the most successful planting is at Regatta Beach. As the name implies the tree is endemic to Norfolk Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and New Caledonia. Other names are the Triangle Tree, the Living Christmas Tree and the Polynesian Pine, although it is not a true pine. The distinctive appearance of this tree, with its widely spaced branches and symmetrical, triangular outline, has made it a popular cultivated species, either as a single tree or in avenues. When the tree reaches maturity, the shape may become a little less symmetrical.

The first European to sight the Norfolk Pine was Captain Cook on his second voyage to the Pacific. Cook’s diaries noted the presence of large forests of tall, straight trees that appeared to be suitable for use as masts and yards for sailing ships. Sadly, it was found that Norfolk Pines were not resilient enough for those uses.

The Norfolk Pine is a slow growing tree, it can reach a height of 50–65 m. It retains its straight vertical trunks and symmetrical branches, even in the face of our strong seaward winds that often, contort other tall species. The Pines at Regatta are growing at a healthy pace and will in future years become a strong defining, symbolic characteristic of the Beach.

On almost the opposite side of the Estate in South Shore Gardens and Middle Park are two very interesting and relatively recent tree plantings. Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia Indica) and Green Vase (Zelkova Serrata) which are also, in their own way, becoming a defining characteristic of their area.

Crepe Myrtle Lagerstroemia Indica

The Crepe Myrtles is an often multi-stemmed, deciduous tree with a wide spreading, flat top, which can grow to 5-8 metres in height. A cultivar from out of the Lythraceae family and a species which is a native of the Indian Subcontinent, hence the name Indica. As a species it offers brilliant differing colours through the spring, summer and autumn seasons. Our South Shore Crepe Myrtles are presently displaying their splendid yellow to orange autumn foliage. It will re-leaf in early spring. The leaves are small, smooth-edged, circular or oval-shaped, and a distinctive dark green. Come early summer and the Crepe Myrtle will start their all summer long, a stunning display of white to pink and purple, crimped petaled, flowers. Even Crepe Myrtle’s bark is a prominent and colourful feature, being a smooth, yet reflecting a mottled pinkish-grey

Green Vase Zelkova Serrata

The Green Vase Zelkova Serrata is a medium-sized deciduous tree usually growing to 20 m tall. It is characterized by a short trunk dividing into many upright and erect spreading stems forming a broad, round-topped head, which can visually resemble its common name ‘Green Vase’. The tree grows rapidly when young though the growth rate slows to medium upon middle age and maturity. The trunk’s bark is greyish white/brown shedding to reveal a distinctive orange inner bark

In Spring it will grow alternately arranged deep green leaves, 5 cm long and broad. The leaves themselves are simple and ovate with serrated margins, to which the tree owes its specific epithet ‘Serrata’. Along with the growth of leaves the Green Vase develops small yellowy green flowers, that will occur in tight groups along new stems.

Green Vase is native to Japan, Korea, eastern China, and the Russian Kuril Islands. Its fast growth rate, the attractive autumn foliage colour and the ability to reduce leave size quite substantially have made the Green Vase a favourite bonsai growing plant.

Big or small, our ten thousand plus trees are not only a visual asset, they are along with our seagrass, great carbon cleaners, giving Sanctuary Lakes Residents the highest quality fresh air.