If you spend much time camping in the Australian bush one of the skills you need to develop is how to identify a good site to pitch a tent. Things like choosing a flat(ish) campsite without any rocks or twigs is key otherwise you will have an uncomfortable sleep as something pokes you in the back or as you slide down the tent on a sloping site.
More important than choosing a comfortable camp site is choosing a ‘safe’ campsite. By safe one of the things to pay attention to is whether limbs are likely to fall from the trees you’re camping under/near. A term that comes out of the USA, but also one that is well known in Australia, is ‘widow-maker’ which describes a tree that has large limbs, typically dead, that fall off the tree, often without notice. If you happen to be camping underneath when they fall they can cause serious injury or even death.
I’ve been camping in a wilderness area near Canberra during a rainstorm listening to nearby large dead trees crack and hearing large limbs down during the night. For this very reason we keep well away from the larger trees. In the cover image for this post (ignoring that this tree is near management road) camping anywhere near this particular tree would be a big risk.
Often when you look up, the dead limbs are noticeable. Even if these limbs are small don’t camp underneath them. Having said that some Eucalyptus tress will drop limbs that appear healthy to conserve moisture in periods of drought and some species are well known for this.
What it comes down to is pay close attention to where you sent up your tent and if there is any doubt, choose another site.
The dead limb on this Eucalyptus tree would have definitely caused serious injury if you were camping underneath and it dropped