Eucalypts, a gum tree for every situation

This article is extracted from Yuruga Newsletter
Vol 11 No 2 (May 2003)

The focus of this article is for gardeners in tropical Australia.
However, the basic principles apply for throughout Australia
with minor modifications for local conditions.

The gum trees (eucalypts) are such a dominant aspect of the Australian landscape that it’s easy to think that most of the approximately 1000 species all look the same.

Take a closer look, though, and you’ll see an amazing array of shapes, sizes, leaves and flower colour. With over 30 different species of Eucalypt stocked here at Yuruga, there’s a gum tree of every shape and size, for every situation from home garden to timber plot.

Have you ever given any thought to the bark of gum trees? Look closely at their trunks and you’ll be surprised at the different colours and textures on offer. Some of the taller gums have beautiful silky smooth trunks. For instance, the Forest Red Gum Eucalyptus tereticornis is often called the Blue Gum because its lovely smooth trunk has a blue-grey hue. The Cadaghi Gum Eucalyptus torelliana sheds its old bark once a year to reveal a fantastic smooth green new trunk.

Eucalyptus platyphylla

The Lemon Scented Gum Eucalyptus citriodora also sheds its bark once a year to present a bright pink trunk to the world, while the Pumpkin Gum Eucalyptus pachycalyx (a very rare species from the Irvinebank area) has a smooth trunk which sheds each year to reveal a spectacular smooth salmon-orange new skin. And don’t overlook the common Poplar Gum Eucalyptus platyphylla with its spreading form – have you ever noticed the lovely salmon-coloured trunk each spring? The colours of these local tropical species really are magnificent.

The Moreton Bay Ash Eucalyptus tessellaris is a stately smooth-trunked tree with a neat, rough grey sock at the base, while our local equivalent of the central Australian Ghost Gum Eucalyptus dallachiana, also has a lovely smooth trunk. And of course, it’s hard to beat the gigantic Rose Gum (or Flooded Gum) Eucalyptus grandis with its smooth white trunk which sheds in long ribbons each year.

Most of the eucalypts mentioned above (and especially the Rose Gum) are a bit too large for home gardens and suburban yards. However, the Forest Red Gum, Lemon Scented Gum, and other species such as the Tallow-wood Eucalyptus microcorys, Red Mahogany Eucalyptus pellita and River Red Gum Eucalyptus camaldulensis are famous for their timbers and are planted extensively in timber plantations both in Australia and overseas.

Eucalyptus phoenicea

Many gum trees, of course, have fairly non-descript rough grey bark, but some rough-barked gums have quite fantastic trunks. Take the ‘Yellow Jackets’ for instance, which quite literally have yellow ‘jackets’. There are a number of species that fall into this category (for instance Eucalyptus leichhardtii and Eucalyptus peltata) both of which have bright orange flaky bark, and they make quite an unusual addition to the garden.

Most eucalypts of tropical Queensland have white flowers, but two species bear masses of orange flowers which are quite spectacular – the Woolly Butt Eucalyptus miniata and the Scarlet Gum Eucalyptus phoenicea.

Eucalyptus ptychocarpa

Contrary to popular belief, not all gums trees are large. The Northern Peppermint Eucalyptus exserta, the Swamp Bloodwood Eucalyptus ptychocarpa, the Rough-leaved Bloodwood Eucalyptus setosa, the Range Bloodwood Eucalyptus abergiana and the Dwarf Silver Gum Eucalyptus shirleyii are small enough to be comfortably grown in an average suburban back yard.

To further entice you to try these lovely plants, the Swamp Bloodwood bears large heads of very showy pink flowers, the Range Bloodwood bears very large heads of white flowers (which have been known to win a prize at the Atherton Show in years past), while the Dwarf Silver Gum has large rounded silvery leaves that lend themselves to use as cut foliage.

And for the most amazing smell sensation, crush a leaf of the Lemon Scented Ironbark Eucalyptus staigeriana – the lemon scent is absolutely fantastic!

2009 update: The Bloodwoods have now been re-named ‘Corymbia’. Hence Eucalypts: torelliana, citriodora, tessellaris, dallachiana, leichhardtii, peltata, ptychocarpa, setosa, abergiana are all now Corymbias. Also Eucalyptus miniata has had a name change to Eucalyptus chartaboma.