Scribbles on gum bark

Friend K sent me a photo of scribbles on pieces of bark from a gum tree when she walked in Tasmania’s central highlands. She says, ‘I find it fascinating (I also noticed it last year when I visited the Glasshouse Mountains in QLD too).’ Then asks, ‘Do you know anything about these? The interesting thing is that the patterns are not mirrored on front and back even though there are often scribbles present on both sides of the bark. I can’t remember if I looked up how this happens but maybe there is an interesting article about how this occurs somewhere?


Whenever I see this decorative work in the bush I always stop to look more closely. It seems magical as if the bush has hands and drawing implements and has learnt to draw.

You can find this ‘writing’ on our native Scribbly Gum (Eucalyptus haemastoma). The Australian Geographic explains ‘Far better than any artwork from the abstract expressionism movement, our native scribbly gum moths have been making a canvas out of eucalyptus trees for millions of years.’ It is the larvae of the Ogmograptis scribula moth that feeds on the hind bark, moves around and leaves a trail. When the bark peels away in later years, it reveals the zig-zag tracks made by the caterpillar as it fed.

This website reminds us that scribbled bark has fascinated Australians for a long while. ‘The author of the Snugglepot and Cuddlepie books, May Gibbs, made them a feature of the gumnut babies’ world, and the great Australian poet Judith Wright cemented their place in literary culture with her 1955 poem Scribbly Gum .’

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