ODE TO THE GUM LEAF

Gum leaves lit by morning sun.

We Australians love gum leaves.  Expat Aussies can be reduced to tears by a whiff of their aroma.  Campers in the bush  put them into billy tea……for the flavor, but even more for nostalgia.

 

Billy tea

Billy tea…note that there are plenty of gum leaves around.

Our  property in the Blue Mountains was named The Gums by a previous owner, so it’s no wonder I’m a bit obsessed with the leaves.

The Gums Blackheath

To suddenly see one lit by sunlight is a joy…..even if something has eaten a bit out of the middle for its lunch.

Gum leaves in morning light

Back lit by the sun

The colours in them can be magical too. They remind me of stained glass.

Eucalypt leaves

Insect nibbled gum leaves

Gum leaves are adored by insects!

They can also by transformed by mist and dew. The new leaves contrast so beautifully against the older grey.

Gum leaves in the mist

Taken on a misty bush walk at Blackheath.

Gum trees are so resilient; they have to be in our harsh climate.

Gum leaves

New growth after a bush fire.

Leaf curl spiders use them to build their simple homes……or  in the photo below, as a foundation  for something more impressive.

SPIDER'S HOME ON A GUM LEAF.

Home sweet home for a tiny spider.

 

Cicada on gum leaf.

Cicada drawn to at least part of a tree.

I use dried ones  at Christmas time as gift tags.

Gum leaf gift tags

Gum leaf gift tags.

These ones are a bit more festive. Of course, arty types could create something really special.

 

Gum leaf gift tags.

A bit of glitter for my neighbours.

My creative friend Jen Eddington from Tasmania dyes fabric using all manner of natural material, She produced  this wonderful gum leaf design.

Gum leaf print on fabric by Jen Eddington

Gum leaf print by Jen Eddington.

MUSIC MAKERS

When I was a child I could extract  a whistle from a gum leaf, but I’ve lost the knack. Some people can actually play a tune.

In  1926 The Governor  of New South Wales, Sir Dudley de Chair was touring in the north of the state. The Wingham Chronicle gave the following account of the welcome he received;

Here at the roadside an army of 30 aborigines waited for the Governor’s car, waving flags.  As Sir Dudley approached a native jazz band burst into the National Anthem played on gum leaves.

After this it gave a recital, producing a disturbing yet not unpleasant musical effect by blowing on gum leaves. Indeed, if this band could be placed in a theatre it would cause a sensation. It completely outbuzzes the saxophone, and reduces the oboe to the rank of a tin whistle. The black musicians played tenderly and very solemnly, visibly affecting many spectators.

An Aboriginal gum leaf band actually recorded a concert for the radio during the war.  You can see how the leaf is held against the bottom lip. I might have another go.

Aboriginal gum leaf band recording

.Today, one of the best known gum leaf players is  Jeff Willmott.

Jeff Willmott, gum leaf player

The maestro!

Here is Jeff’s  fantastic video on how to choose the best leaf and how to play. You don’t even have to remove it from the tree; a rare example of a  living musical instrument.  Time to give it a go myself.

I picked out what I considered a good specimen according to Jeff’s advice . But do you think I could make it work? No…not a damn peep, no matter how hard I blew. My associate Editor Des is still trying, but honestly….. he’s wasting his time!

Editor Des playing the gum leaf

Try, try, try again!

Oh well, I can still enjoy the beauty of the leaves. I picked up the ones below while  sweeping the paths in my garden. Notice the little galls on some?

Collection of gum leaves

Picked up around my garden.

 

 

Gum leaf face

Keep smiling!

FEEL FREE TO LEAVE A MESSAGE IN THE BOX BELOW. DON’T FORGET TO COMPLETE THE LITTLE ANTI-SPAM SUM BEFORE PRESSING ‘SUBMIT’. 

 

 

 

4 Comments
  1. I love gum leaves also… My Pa could make them sing, I never could.

    • Pauline

      I seem to remember we held ours between the palms of our hands and blew.

  2. I can still blow a whistle sound from a blade of grass, a skill I learned when young. I can only make a one note sound though! Never tried a gum leaf.

    • Pauline

      I dont have many gum ‘leaves left now, what with me and Des. Might have to start on the grass!

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