Mallee, what is?


I am going to be working in the semi arid north western region of Victoria.
This prompted a question: ‘Mallee, what is?’  Not such a simple question…

‘a mallee’ in ‘the mallee’

Deciding what ‘Mallee’ is, takes you on a research path spanning centuries, climates, sea level changes, survival, cultures, egos, pastoral booms, wars, plant physiology, invasive species, drought, pastoral depressions, technological reforms, social reforms, short term decision making,  innovative solutions, community development and ‘antivelopment’ (made up word, like it?).  Not to mention all the social, agricultural and ecological research that goes along with all of these themes.

Mere  dictionary definitions, might lead you to believe the ‘Mallee’ is something along the lines of:

  • a biogeographic region

    Apparently this is a Mallee Fowl, a giant Mallee Fowl!

  • an electoral district
  • a highway
  • a vegetation association
  • any one of ~27ish eucalyptus species
  • a fowl
  • a footy league
  • a community
  • a CMA
  • a growth habit of some eucalypts

But, these dot points don’t really do it for me.  In my search for the answer to:
‘Mallee; what is?’
I came across one definition that seemed appropriate to capture the vast range of anthropogenic and natural histories and narratives that are associated with this ‘M’ word.
‘The Mallee’ isa unifying theme’.  

Perhaps this answer could be up for debate.  The point is, there would be many people with many different perspectives weighing in on this debate.  And thats what makes this ‘M’ word so darn interesting.

After a recent reconnaissance mission to the north west region of Victoria, I am beginning to see how the general notion of ‘the Mallee’ can get under your skin.
Its vast.  In every sense.

Triodia sp. A characteristic mallee species. The common name is ‘Porcupine grass’ and this one even looks like a porcupine!(!)

What I have found to be certain, is that ventures into ‘the Mallee’, whether in a 4WD, a book or behind a screen, definitely requires filling out a risk assessment form, packing extra water, coffee, an epurb, a few maps and some sustenance (watch out for the fruit fly exclusion zone though).


I will be doing a fair chunk of my field research in ‘the Mallee’, so you can expect a few more mallee related blogs!  I might have some more answers to add to the list in a few years.

For now, theres plenty of reading to do:

  • Noble, J. C. & Bradstock, Ross Andrew. & CSIRO.  (1989).  Mediterranean landscapes in Australia : mallee ecosystems and their management.  East Melbourne, Vic. :  CSIRO.
  • National Mallee Conference. & Noble, J. C. & Joss, P. J. & Jones, G. K. & CSIRO.  (1990).  The Mallee lands : a conservation perspective : proceedings of the National Mallee Conference, Adelaide, April, 1989.  Melbourne :  CSIRO Australia.

The Mallee = Blue + Red

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