Mountain Ash

Alpine National Park | Victoria | Australia

Ground swell: Mountain Ash | Scott Bennett| 2012 | Watercolour, charcoal, pastel on linen | 76 cm x 122 cm | Collection the artist

Click here to view a zoomable image of the drawing.

Artist statement

The Ash forests of the Alps impressed me with their singularity. Great silver stands climb over the hills to the horizon, every single one, grey with death, killed by the ‘hot’ fires of 2003.

I was nervous traveling alone in winter on Australia’s highest accessible road. I’d never used chains before nor seen snow falling from the sky. Several snowstorms blasted the pass as I crossed Mt Hotham.

I will never forget the sublimity of these silver forests. Swirling in ashen snow, they were a twisting complexity of writhing forms. The pale skeletons of trees seemed electric, their sparks threatening to ignite the sky.


I am aware that lightning strikes caused many of the fires. Paradoxically, Mountain Ash require fire to seed and snow cooled earth to germinate. Seedlings grow prolifically but do not produce seed for 10 – 15 years. If fire comes again within 10 years, there is no regrowth and the Ash are replaced by other species.

Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) is the world’s tallest flowering plant, and the tallest hardwood tree (trees can grow to over 500 years old, and over 100 meters). At one time Victoria probably had the world’s tallest trees, but the greatest giants have since been cut down or destroyed by fire.

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