The passing of a Tap Tree

A Tap Tree - Cider Gum
The Passing of a Tap Tree: Figure in Landscape No. 39

The Passing of a Tap Tree 2022 Oil on Linen 900 x 1200mm $4800

The passing of a Tap Tree. The cider gum produces a sap that is both drinkable and able to be fermented into a mildly alcoholic drink. It is tapped similar to a Maple tree. For thousands of years, the Lairmairerenner people, (Big River nation), tapped this tree. It was used for the cider festival. Held each spring, the First Nations people of Tasmania gathered on the Central Plateau for ceremony, trading, and celebrating the passing of winter.

Tap Tree – what is its age?

The tree was last tapped by the Lairmairerenner before 1830 when the last of the people were murdered or removed from the land. This puts its age as well over two hundred years and the extent of the tapping scars demonstrated it was an old tree then. It may have continued to be tapped by the settlers who set up a homestead not far from this tree. But the tree has only recently died. When I first discovered the tree it was holding onto life. Sadly I have witnessed the passing of a Tap Tree.

How was it tapped?

The tapping was done on the north face of the tree. This was to allow the warmth of the sun to encourage the sap flow. This north face is knarled with the scars of years of tapping activity. The people made a temporary clay vessel below the tap point. The fresh fluid would run down the trunk into the bowl. Then it would be covered with bark and stone. It would be left to ferment, making a festive drink. I can personally attest to the sap having a beautiful sweet taste. While I have not tapped a tree, tree borers frequently release the sap which is feasted on by bees, wasps, and birds. The Orange on the tree below is cider staining.

Wattle birds feeding
Wattlebirds feeding on insects feeding on cider