Today’s guest post by park visitor Tempe Macgowan.
We recently officially unveiled the Centennial Park 125th Anniversary logo, which featured one of our most iconic and synonymous trees – the Port Jackson Fig. So, what is it about figs and how did they come to be planted in Centennial Park. We asked Tempe Macgowan.
Having spent four years working on the planning and redevelopment of Hyde Park, then on the Tree Master Plan that guides Centennial Park’s tree management, it is only natural to for me to see connections between the two parks. Charles Moore, fig trees and the creation of enduring urban landscapes are common to both places – it is the creation of a sense of place that has been so effective largely through the planting of fig trees.
Peeking out from a fig tree in Centennial Park
If you were to imagine looking across from the reservoir in Centennial Park and not see that defining double row of fig trees circling Grand Drive? Can you imagine a stretch of uninterrupted swamp land and sand dunes for as far as the eye can see? Can you imagine Moore Park Road, Anzac Parade without them as well, containing the view?
Well before Centennial Park was established in 1888, the City of Sydney’s Register of Significant Trees notes that:
“…fig trees were being planted en masse in Sydney. They were used as a major landscape element throughout much of the nineteenth century. The magnificent scale and broad dense evergreen canopies of these figs were ideally suited to grand garden schemes. An avenue of Moreton Bay Figs was planted in the Domain in 1847.”
“Charles Moore (Director, Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens 1848-1896) and William Guilfoyle promoted the use of Moreton Bay Figs and many other rainforest specimens as key components for park planting throughout the mid-to-late nineteenth century.”
Charles Moore was responsible for guiding the establishment of Centennial Park, with James Jones its’ first overseer from 1887-1889. Moore had a lot to do with the fig tree planting of which there are thirteen varieties in Centennial Parklands and five of these are varieties of the Port Jackson fig (Ficus rubiginosa).
In 1896, Grand Drive was planted out with a special sequence of trees to allow for the curve of the Drive. This sequence was continued along Federation Way linking Centennial Park with Moore Park.
There were later planting of figs in 1900 along Parkes Drive by Henry Maiden who was Director of the Botanic Gardens, the State nursery and several vice-regal residences, the Outer Domain and Centennial Park (1896 – 1924).
Now, across the entire Parklands, fig trees are the most dominant tree whether it be, Ficus macrophylla, rubiginosa, or microcarpa. Of the almost 1,000 Port Jackson figs across the Parklands today, 292 are planted around Grand Drive. It is said that Centennial Parklands has the largest collection of the Port Jackson fig trees in the world!
Of those, there are more Ficus rubiginosa than any other species in the Parklands. They impact at numerous levels including the Parklands visual connection with other parks and avenues in the city.
Port Jackson Figs are one of the most popularly dedicated trees as part of the Centennial Parklands Foundation’s Tree Dedication Program. Find out more here about dedicating trees in Centennial Park. Perhaps you want to make your own personal contribution to the future of Centennial Park during its 125th year!
A magnificent fig on Parkes Drive, flanking the Paperbark Grove in Centennial Park
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About Tempe Macgowan
Tempe Macgowan writes about urban life. She has a background in urban design and landscape architecture, and has been writing about matters relating to these for the past fifteen years. She studied Landscape Architecture initially and then after working on the redevelopment of Hyde Park in Sydney in the early 1990′s she went on to study Urban Design at Harvard University. Visit Tempe’s blog.