A Tree is BornTree by Claire Saxby bookcover

Well, actually that’s not quite right, really. The book is ‘born’ ie released into the wild in early April 2024. The tree that is the subject of ‘Tree’ is about 350 years old. Our story is much younger than that.

In September, 2022, Jess Racklyeft and I visited Toolangi State Forest with Ranger Kaz. It was a day for all seasons, beginning with fog and rain, before clearing to bright blue skies. We tramped through muddy wet paths, were dripped on and had to banish leeches as we discovered forest secrets, met mountain ash trees and asked more questions than I suspect Kaz has ever been asked on a single day. But she was a champion, and was still smiling at the end, adding information we hadn’t known to ask about.

Young and mature leaves from old giant treeShe introduced us to trees she and others have given names too – family names – because they are so many human generations old. We ‘met’ many of the trees that depend on the mountain ash for their survival and told us about magic ways that the stringy bark transfers fire heat upwards to make sure that seeds sprout to grow new trees. We drove along the ridge where rain falling on one side ends up in the Murray River system, and the rain falling on the other side ends up in the Thompson Dam. Wild.

Kaz showed us nesting hollows that only begin to form when the trees are more than 100 years old. She showed us the broad leaves of a young tree and the narrower leaves of a mature tree.Old giant tree with book illustrator Jess and author Claire Saxby

We walked inside a big old mountain ash with extensive ‘mudguts’ and we looked up and could see the sky. Yet the tree lives on. Back at the ranger station, we continued to ask questions and take notes even as we ate. Kaz directed us to resources in books, pamphlets and online and waved us goodbye.

We’d been researching for months before this, but there is no substitute for standing in the forest, listening and learning, despite the pesky leeches and the odd downpour.

We hope we’ve captured the majesty of the tree we’re calling ‘Gwen’, and given readers some insight to the wonders of their world.


Read more about Claire’s latest book ‘Tree’