Local myth has it that this Moreton Bay Fig, (Ficus macrophylla) at the gates of the Portland Botanical Gardens, is the burial site for a baby, which died on a voyage to Australia, about 150 years ago. I feel quite moved whenever I pass by it. Wonder what our cemeteries would look like if instead of rows of head stones there were rows of trees?
I also wonder how many unmarked graves, covered by trees, there already are in Australia? A legacy of our dark, colonial past.
What is especially interesting about this tree is its arrival in Portland. It most likely came from the collection of Baron Ferdinand Jakob Heinrich von Mueller (1825-1896), botanist. A really fascinating man. In August 1857 he was appointed director of the Melbourne Botanical Gardens, having returned from an expedition to Moreton Bay in 1855. David Garnier at the Portland Botanical Gardens suggested that the seed from the Moreton Bay fig came from that expedition, about the same time as the burial of the child.
“As director of the gardens Mueller was responsible for exchanging seeds and plants with botanists throughout Australia as well as European and American herbaria” http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mueller-sir-ferdinand-jakob-heinrich-von-4266
The Portland Botanical Gardens is a bit hard to find if you do not know about it. And it is ‘virtually’ hidden as well. It does not have a website or facebook page. Here is a really gorgeous interview conducted by ABC local radio’s Jeremy Lee with a lovely local called Diane Kierce.