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Nothofagus gunnii
Nothofagus Gunnii summer foliage with flowers.JPG
Scientific classification
Genus:
Nothofagus
Species:
gunnii
Synonyms

Fuscospora gunnii (Hook.f.) Heenan & Smissen
Fagus gunnii

Nothofagus gunnii, the tanglefoot- or deciduous beech, or Australian beech, is a deciduous shrub endemic to the highlands of Tasmania, Australia. It was discovered in 1847 by R.C Gunn and evidence exists that it once lived in Antarctica. N. gunnii is a small woody tree with a shrubby appearance known to grow up to 10 metres (33 ft). It lives only on mountains due to temperature limitations within the Tasmanian maritime climate and can survive up to heights of 1,600 metres (5,200 ft). It grows in alpine and sub-alpine regions in the central portions of the state but is absent from the coast zones. Though capable of reaching the size of a small tree, it rarely exceeds 10 metres (33 ft) in height, instead growing as a thick shrub or as a woody ground cover hence its common name of "tanglefoot".

Taxonomy

Joseph Dalton Hooker described the tanglefoot beech.

Common names include tanglefoot- or deciduous beech, or fagus, which can also refer to the entire Beech family.

The species was renamed as Fuscospora gunnii by New Zealand scientists. The change in name is controversial, and it is not necessary to accept this change.

Description

Nothofagus gunnii is a small tree which may grow up to 4 metres tall (growth habit is heavily dependent on the exposure of the site) and has a thick shrubby appearance due to substantial branching. The alternating leaves are simple and ovate with toothed margins and attached by short petioles. Leaf lamina is generally <20mm in length and is distinctly 'crinkled'. It is most easily visually separated from the other Tasmanian species from the same genus, Nothofagus cunninghamii, by the crinkled appearance of the leaf lamina. During Autumn and Winter months, the leaves undergo colour change as any other deciduous species does. The leaves of this deciduous species have an average lifespan of around 7-8 months. The leaves are simple and alternate, growing 1 cm long. The leaf colour is bright green, turning yellow -then brilliant red, in autumn. They are almost circular in shape with deep veins which end in the gaps between the rounded teeth on the leaf. The plant has separate male and female flowers on the tree. Both male and female flowers are small and inconspicuous. The fruit is small (about 6 mm wide) and woody, and contains three small winged nuts. In most years seed production is poor, but once in a while a 'mast' crop occurs with high germination. The seeds have a very short viability.

Tanglefoot forests cannot survive fire, and must re-establish from neighbouring areas. They are very sensitive to changed conditions due to their slow growth. Under 100 km2 (39 sq mi) of forest remain. There are only 2 native deciduous tree in Tasmania,ant there are The only 2 cold climate winter-deciduous tree in Australia.

Distribution

Nothofagus gunnii is endemic to the island of Tasmania, and is restricted to high altitude and relatively high rainfall areas with no recent fire activity. It was discovered at the summit of Mount Olympus in central Tasmania, and is also known at several locations within the Mount Field National Park and on Cradle Mountain. It is considered a paleoendemic species to Tasmania as macrofossils have been discovered within Oligocene sediments both in Tasmania and Antarctica.

Cultivation

Nothofagus gunnii required around 1,800 mm of rain spread throughout the year to be cultivated, cool temperatures not below -10 °C and also requires full sun. It grows in deep peaty soils. It is best grown from fresh seed collected in a 'mast' year, germinating in a few weeks. It is believed that a beneficial mycorrhyzal fungus is required for the long-term success of the plant. Cuttings can be struck, taken in late winter before bud burst.

Nothofagus gunnii is rarely seen in cultivation due to its poor performance and slow growth. It is believed to be a candidate plant for bonsai.

Ecology and reproduction

Nothofagus gunnii exists only in alpine and sub-alpine environments on mountains within Tasmania. The species is generally limited to heights above 800 metres (2,600 ft) due to the temperature and relatively short snow lie duration within the Tasmanian oceanic climate. It may live as a dominant low shrubby tree on open, generally sloping, rocky ground. F. gunnii habitation is severely limited by fire regimes as it is extremely fire sensitive and will not survive burning. Local extinctions of the species have been attributed to fire in the Denison Range. Despite the limited range of Nothofagus gunnii, the species is not listed as endangered.

Although very few data are recorded about reproductive methods of F. gunnii, it may be assumed that seeds are wind dispersed and that the species are mast seeders as is displayed in similar species such as Nothofagus cunninghamii.

  • Reid, James B.; Hill, Robert S.; Brown, Michael J.; & Hovenden, Mark J.(2005)Vegetation of Tasmania. Monotone art printers. .
  • Heenan, Peter B.: & Smissen, Rob D. (2013) "Revised circumscription of Nothofagus and recognition of the segregate genera Fuscospora, Lophozonia, and Trisyngyne (Nothofagaceae)". Phytotaxa 146 (1), 1-31.
  • George, Alexander S.; & Mackay, David (1989) "Flora of Australia: Volume 3: Hamamelidales to Casuarinales. Australian Government Publishing Service. .
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