Holidaymakers warned of 'ticking timebomb' that could prove deadly for campers

Aussies looking forward to an outdoor adventure should avoid this simple mistake.

Aussie campers are being warned about the dangers of setting up camp beneath a tree as doing so could have deadly consequences.

"Big old" native gum trees are particularly problematic to holidaymakers looking to spend some time outdoors, as the often dry and tired branches can snap in an instant and come crashing down.

It's a "ticking timebomb" some on social media have warned after a photo was shared by a camping enthusiast this week. The image shows a ute with a rooftop tent that's been crushed by a humongous tree branch.

In the photo, the trunk of a large eucalyptus tree can be seen a couple of metres away indicating the branch that had fallen was likely attached to it before it snapped off. "Don't camp under them and don't park under them. The branches can let go with no warning in perfectly still conditions," the poster warned.

Fallen tree on camping tent.
Campers are being warned not to park under large trees in case they fall. Source: Facebook

Falling branches can be fatal, expert warns

The poster pointed out that the trees "are called 'widow makers' for a reason". In forestry, the term 'widowmaker' refers to a detached or broken limb or tree top that's at risk of falling, or has already done so.

Eucalyptus trees, which are the most common trees in Australia, have long been referred to as widowmakers for their tendency to drop limbs during times of stress, and they can be "extremely heavy and dangerous," Royal Botanic Gardens chief botanist Brett Summerell said.

"If someone is hit by the falling limbs in the wrong way it can be fatal," he told Yahoo News Australia. "The term probably comes from forestry circles a while ago when most workers were male and if they died a fair chance of leaving their wife behind as a widow".

Camping under trees is more 'dangerous' in summer

Summerell agreed that camping under trees, especially several species of Eucalypts, "can be very dangerous". He said it's particularly problematic during summer when the conditions are much drier.

"There is a condition called summer limb drop where some species of eucalypts drop limbs for no apparent reason, and in very still conditions – and it's unpredictable," he explained.

"It is thought that the flow of water to the branch is disrupted for some reason but it is very poorly understood. Of course, summer storms can also cause limbs to drop if they are weakened in any way. This can happen for a range of species."

Aussies share falling tree horror stories

Details of the incident depicted in the image are unknown and is believed to be an old photo that's been reshared online. But it's an "important" lesson to learn said some responding to the post.

"A warning that can’t be repeated often enough. So many first-time campers starting out this new year," one said. Another described it as a "ticking timebomb". Meanwhile, others shared their own terrifying experiences.

"I’ve seen this happen. Large branches just fall off for no apparent reason," one recalled. There was "no noise" and no indication it would fall, he said and added "you're dead if you are under it. So beware".

Another said they had "one fall on me" while sitting on a friend's pergola. "It smashed through the roof, the roof hitting my friend's brother, and the gum branch had me trapped in my chair," they explained.

"I had two slices across my legs and a graze down my stomach. I'm lucky to be alive," he added.

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