A Significant Birthday

Birthday parties seem to be reserved for the young, or even the very young, and the very old – unless of course it’s a significant one – with a “zero” ending. This year, the numbers came together for one of my favourite trees.

Ever since I first started assisting with the education program at the Geelong Botanic Gardens, I’ve been asking students to work out the age of our magnificent Sequoiadendron gigantium (Giant Redwood, formerly called Wellingtonia gigantea). This is one of the few trees in the Gardens where visitors can actually determine the age themselves. A plaque at the base of the tree indicates that the tree was planted by Sir George Bowen, Governor of Victoria on July 2 1873.

The Argus reported his visit:
The first place visited was the beautifully situated Botanic Gardens. The drive through the park was very pretty, and greatly enjoyed by the visitors. At the highest point a halt was made and descending from the carriage, His Excellency visited the nurseries, flower beds and aviaries within the enclosure. Here His Excellency planted a young Wellingtonia gigantea in commemoration of his visit.

As I point out to the children, the tree must actually be a little older than calculated, as the Governor planted a young tree and not a seed. Despite that, our tree is still a baby, being only about a third of the height of a mature tree in the forests of its native California.

Celebrating birthdays seems to be something you either do or don’t do. My family were not big on adult birthdays but once had a picnic to celebrate the 100th birthday of a bridge, so the idea of doing the same thing for a tree had a certain appeal. This year, our Redwood turned 140 on July2  – the first day of the Crafty Creatures holiday program. It was an opportunity not to be missed. Each group of children who joined me in the Gardens to look for mini-beasts also joined together under the Redwood to sing Happy Birthday.

But what is a birthday without cake? And who better to eat birthday cake under the Redwood than the Gardens’ horticultural team who continue to keep our Gardens looking amazing? A deal was done: cupcakes for anyone who joins me under the Redwood to sing Happy Birthday.

Jenny Possingham
Volunteer Guide



A group hug for Sequoiadrendron gigantium