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Southern Beech

Southern Beech

N. cunninghamii
Photographer - John Broomfield
Source - Museum Victoria
N. cunninghamii
Photographer - Ross Field

Nothofagus cunninghamii

A slow growing, high rainfall, mountain gully tree to 30m tall.

The fine glossy green foliage creates dense shade.

The smooth trunks of old trees are often clad in mosses lichens and epiphytic ferns. The young foliage in late winter and spring is orange-red in colour.

There are separate male and female flowers.

This plant has Gondwanan origins with related species being found in similar habitats on South America, Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia and Papua New-Guinea.

The strong similarity of form and the persistence of these trees in comparable habitats on other southern land masses supports other evidence that these trees have survived largely unchanged since continental separation. Fossil Nothofagus leaves have even been found on the Antarctic continent.

Nothofagus in Australia was once far more widespread, when the climate was wetter and fire was less frequent. Other plant and animal species exclusively associated with Nothofagus in Australia also have close relatives associated with the comparable trees on the other southern land masses. Beech Orange fungus and the Peloridiidae bug are good examples.

The tree produces high quality timber that is used for fine woodwork. Fire exclusion for 600 years may result in the Mountain Ash forests being totally replaced by cool temperate rainforest containing Nothofagus.

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