Neil Fisher with a stand of Indian Mast trees. He fears they can attract bats.
Neil Fisher with a stand of Indian Mast trees. He fears they can attract bats. Chris Ison

Vandalised trees may attract bats

THE destruction of scores of saplings in a dawn attack might not have been senseless vandalism as first thought.

There's speculation the trees, torn from the ground along Moores Creek Rd and Norman Rd earlier this month, could have been deliberately sabotaged because they were a species some believed were a magnet for flying foxes.

Rockhampton Regional Council confirmed it intended to replace the Indian Mast trees as soon as possible and issued a statement rejecting claims they would be a food source for bats.

The council's gardening experts accept the trees, Latin name Polyathia longifolia, attract bats under certain conditions, but said they rarely produced fruit in drier climates such as Rockhampton's.

"These trees have been successfully used in areas such as Cairns and Townsville as both street trees and landscape trees," RGC said in a statement.

"Both councils have confirmed that there have been no problems with bats or with the need for constant pruning. In fact officers in Townsville confirmed they seldom bear fruit."

Mackay Regional Council did not use Indian Mast trees but confirmed there were a few in private gardens.

They were also unaware of any major concerns with bats or pruning.

The statement said Indian Mast trees played a valuable role in municipal landscapes and the council was confident they would not cause a problem with roosting bats.

But a number of experts disagree. The Morning Bulletin's gardening guru, Neil Fisher, writing last week, described the species as architecturally perfect with small pale green flowers but a magnet for bats.

And others have said it would be a mistake for the council to plant the species in a residential area.

Mr Fisher said yesterday he thought the tree was one of nature's wonders and was magnificent in the right setting and in isolation.

But he questioned the wisdom of planting lots of them near to new homes with water tanks.

"We have to accept there is a concern with flying foxes in residential areas and I am getting more letters about these trees than any other issue at the moment. In Mackay they are being removed from densely populated areas," he said.

Someone went to a lot of trouble to pull nearly 100 saplings from the median strips in Moores Creek Rd and Norman Rd on Saturday, March 3.

Council workers replanted some, but their delicate root systems were compromised and they since died.

The authority would pay more than $1200 to replace them and staff hope the new trees would not be vandalised.



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