When the Europeans first climbed the ridge line that today is roughly marked by the course of Warrigal Rd, they gazed out upon a broad forest, that stretched from Ashwood to Rowville in the east (as those areas would later be named). To the north, it touched the aptly named Forest Hill, to the south, it reached as far as the site of what would become Dingley Village. It became known as the Ashwood forest (the portion of it most frequently seen), and was a well-known landmark for many years.
But within a decade of its discovery, it was clear that the forest was shrinking, especially on its northern and western edges. Land clearing for agriculture and cutting for lumber were the primary culprits, but even with the recognition that it was happening, no one much saw it as a problem (Victorian era ideas of environmentalism somewhat differing from more modern ones). No one except Etienne L’Ontrose.
L’Ontrose had, in later life, developed a certain shame about his role in the extinction of various forms of floral life in the Melbourne region. And here, he decided, he would make his stand. He set out to save the lone tree that remained of the forest, an ash tree located near the intersection of Dandenong Rd and North Rd. This ash, which he named Mon Ash (my ash), was duly saved by his efforts, leaving L’Ontrose the owner of a dusty field that he dared not use lest he threaten the tree’s wellbeing.
The terms of his will left the area to the government, with the stipulation that no deliberate harm come to the tree ever. After some decades of indecision, the government decided to build a university in the area, leaving a wide courtyard around the tree. Unfortunately, the plant was accidentally destroyed by a runaway bulldozer during construction. The eastern end of the Eastern Science Lecture Theatre occupies that site today.
Suburbs near Monash University: