Forest of memories 

• Ecologist and author Viki Cramer.

WESTERN Australia’s eucalypt forests and woodlands are in trouble and we need to do more to protect them, says ecologist and writer Viki Cramer.

For her debut book The Memory of Trees, the Perth author spent 18 months visiting forests and woodlands across the state’s south-west and spent time with the people who look after them.

Part love letter, part science and history, the book is a fascinating ode to eucalypts and how they are becoming endangered by logging, land clearing, disease, drought, fire and climate change.

“Over the past decade I had seen more and more scientists warn that our eucalypt forests and woodlands are in trouble,” Cramer says.

“Most of us now recognise that the future of coral reefs and Antarctic ice shelves are at stake in the face of climate change, but perhaps fewer people know about what is happening to the places that are part of our everyday lives.

“Nine out of ten Australians live within 50km of the coast, where eucalypt forests and eucalypt woodlands are the most prominent and well-known types of vegetation.

“The book is a journey through the eucalypt forests and woodlands of the south-west, seen through the lenses of science and history, and the eyes of people passionate about protecting these places.”

Cramer says she met some fascinating folk on her travels.

“I had the great fortune of spending time out bush with scientists, land carers, conservation advocates, and Noongar and Ngadju Elders, seeing the trees and the landscape through their eyes,” she says.


“I visited the jarrah forests around Jarrahdale to Perth’s east, the jarrah, karri and tingle forests of the Walpole Wilderness, the York gum, wandoo and salmon gum woodlands in the wheatbelt around Tammin and Kellerberrin, the mallee-heath to the east of the Stirling Range, and the Great Western Woodlands around Norseman.

“I felt a great rush of excitement when I learned I may have been one of only a handful of people in the past decade to have seen Steedman’s mallet (a small eucalypt that grows in only a few place to the east of Hyden) in the wild, only for my travelling companion to then tell me that they are planted widely as street trees in parts of South Australia and Victoria!”

A PhD-trained ecologist, Cramer has spent nearly two decades studying plants and trees, including stints in the subtropical forests of Queensland, the monsoon vine forests of the Northern Territory, and the eucalypt forests and woodlands of WA.

Aside from the well-researched history and science in the book, Cramer explores the Proustian relationship we have with trees – the memories they evoke from our youth and what the future may hold.

“I wanted to explore what was happening in the landscapes where we spend our weekends and summer holidays; the places we remember from our childhoods and where we take our children,” she says.

Cramer says most people love trees, but they need to be more pro-active about saving them.

“We need to do more than simply ‘love’ the trees or forests or landscapes that are important to us,” she says.

“We need to take responsibility for them. And one of the most powerful ways to do that is as part of a community – be that a community of land carers, of conservation advocates, of scientists, or simply a community of friends coming together to care for a place.

“Despite the solitary nature of writing a book, I discovered through writing The Memory of Trees that hope is other people.” 

A book launch for The Memory of Trees will be held on Monday (June 26) 6pm at The Local Hotel, 282 South Terrace in South Fremantle.


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