This mixed row planting of Moreton Bay Figs (Ficus macrophylla) and Hill’s Weeping Figs (Ficus microcarpa var. hillii) are located within the grounds of the Inter-War Art Deco style apartment building, ‘Birtley Towers’ (scheduled in the Local Environmental Plan 2012).
The row of figs follows a prominent ridge-line at the end of Birtley Place cul-de-sac, above Elizabeth Bay Road. The row planting extends beyond the property boundary with one specimen, a Moreton Bay Fig, located on the public verge near the entry gates. The elevated position above Elizabeth Bay Road effectively amplifies the size and scale of these trees. Together their combined canopies create an impressive vista and tunnel-like effect over this section of the roadway. The Hill’s Weeping Figs have been planted very close together creating a high level of competition and crowding to all of the trees. They are significant as a group.
The Moreton Bay Fig near the entry gates has achieved massive proportions and is significant as an individual specimen, possibly associated with an earlier garden and dating from the early 1900’s. All of the other trees are significant in the context of the broader group planting. In combination, the figs have significance at the local level in terms of their aesthetic, and historic values.
These figs are important historical components of the Elizabeth Bay landscape being typical of late nineteenth and mid twentieth century planting. They continue a lush, native broadleaf evergreen theme and provide good ornamental and amenity value in this urban setting and for their association with Birtley Towers.
The building was built in 1933 to a design by Emil Sodersten, who had previously worked with Walter Burley Griffin and Eric Nicolls, and the design shows these influences.The larger Moreton Bay Fig is potentially the last remnant of a former nineteenth century garden. The largest one near the entry gates was clearly evident in 1943 aerial photos as a well established tree. The smaller one appears to be a later planting. The larger Moreton Bay Figs appear to be part of a wider planting of similar trees on the site that were present in the early 1900’s but were later removed and replaced with the Hill’s Weeping Figs which appear to be planted after 1943. The Hill’s Weeping Figs are likely to be associated with a Post War period planting phase of the 1950’s, or 60’s, which was typical for this species.