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Can Possum Pruning be Good for Your Trees?

Tony Cavanagh

I have written previously at considerable length about the problems we had with a family of possums which continually denuded our Melia azedarach (White cedar) of new growth over summer of 2005-06, so that we feared that it wouldn't survive (see "Two Possums, One tree and Two humans" (Australian Plants online, 17 May 2007).

After multiple attempts, we finally succeeded in blocking their access to the tree by about May 2006 and they have now seemingly given up and disappeared, at least from the tree, although we occasionally hear them in the yard or on the roof. After many years of below average rainfall, 2006 was reasonable and I recorded about 630mm for the year, still below average but much better than 2005. Freed of possum predation, the Melia began putting out new shoots, I think in early August, and we were rewarded in late October with the best show of flowers I can remember and the healthiest looking Melia. The foliage was a deep green, darker than usual, and the tree bigger than I had seen before. This can be seen in the series of pictures below. Now of course, this fine growth could have resulted from the reasonable rainfall, especially 130mm in July, but I wonder if the severe pruning the possums gave the tree in 2005-06 may have contributed. We will never know but perhaps it does bear out the old adage, "Every cloud has a silver lining".

December 2006     October 2007
December 2007     Foliage and flowers in October 2007
Changes in the health of the Melia:
Top Left - December 2006. Top Right - October 2007.
Bottom Left - December 2007. Bottom Right - Foliage and Flowers in October 2007

Photos: Tony Cavanagh

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Australian Plants online - 2008
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants