Fairies Tree – East Melbourne, Australia - Atlas Obscura
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East Melbourne, Australia

Fairies Tree

A whimsical menagerie of creatures carved into a 300-year-old tree trunk. 

The creatures climbing this tree trunk are sure to delight anyone’s inner child. It looks as though they’ve spilled from the pages of a storybook and landed atop the rough, gnarled bark.

The whimsical tree trunk is the work of Ola Cohn, a sculptor and author of children’s books. From 1931 to 1934, she carved a whole menagerie of creatures into the stump of one of Fitzroy Garden’s original Red Gum trees to celebrate Victoria’s centenary. Her work on the tree inspired her book The Fairies Tree.

You’ll find more than fairies crowded onto the tree trunk. Gnomes and dwarves stand among Australian wildlife like koalas, donkeys, and flying foxes. Cohn incorporated the old tree’s bumps, notches, and curves into her creation, making it so the characters both blend in with and stand out from the natural canvas.

Because the tree was dead when the carvings were created, keeping the enchanting artwork preserved was a tricky task. Workers had to extract the trunk in the 1970s to chemically preserve it and strip away all the rotted wood. The tree now sits on a concrete base and is guarded by a small fence.

Know Before You Go

It's in the Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne, near the miniature Tudor Village. While there, you can also check out Captain Cook's Cottage.