Margaret Loveday – Monday, June 08, 2015
My passion is to entwine the ‘Threads of Love’ throughout my book series and this comes also, in the form of Love for the environment and to bring awareness of the beauty and uniqueness of the Australian Bush and its flora and fauna.
In my book ‘Emily’ I have written about Green Coastal Wildlife Park, which is a fictitious Park that showcases all the elements and philosophies that I believe would help to achieve the love and respect that nature deserves. It is an ideal ‘Natural Wonderland’, a compilation of places I have visited and enjoyed.
I would like to contribute to this awareness, by sharing on this magnificent Australian species of trees, called Eucalyptus.
Eucalyptus (Gum) trees
The Eucalyptus Trees are unique and very special trees; they are beautiful and can be found in almost every part of Australia. There are about 700 species and only 15 species of these were introduced to other countries.
The Two Characteristics of the Eucalyptus Trees:
- The unique floral display is like no other tree, and
- The fruits (or gum nuts), that each tree produces.
These two characteristics are what makes them easy to recognise, and sets them apart.
Their flowers are not petals, but a ‘showy’ of numerous fluffy stamens, that come in a kaleidoscope of many colours, for example, here are some of the different colours of the flowers found around Australia:-
- Western Australia – yellow, green, pale yellow or red orange tightly clustered flowers.
- Queensland – red, orange or pink
- South Australia – red, white, pale yellow
- New South Wales – pink, white, dark pink / purplish
- Northern Territory – scarlet flowers and others are stunning orange with bright yellow tipped stamens (look like a flame), orange.
- Victoria – white
- Eastern ranges to coast of mainland Australia – masses of white showy flowers
- Sandy coastal, swampy south west corner of Australia – red
- Tasmania – white
All the stamens are enclosed in a cap, composed of the fused sepals, hence the woody fruits called gum nuts.
Nearly all Eucalyptus trees are evergreen, different shades of green/blue/white in colour. Some tropical species lose their leaves at the end of the dry season, others Eucalyptus leaves are covered with oil glands, which helps to prevents water loss.
Eucalyptus Tree Identification
Due to the many different varieties ofs Eucalyptus trees, identification has been made easier and this is now done by observing the bark of the trees. This process has allowed them to be placed into five simple bark categories.
A). Bark Identification
- Stringybark: – consists of strands which can be pulled off in long pieces. Usually it is thick with a spongy texture. (Stands of thick long pieces – spongy)
- Ribbon:- where the bark comes of in thin long pieces but still loosely attached in some places. They can be long ribbons, firmer or twisted. (Long loosely ribbons)
- Ironbark: – is hard, rough and deeply furrowed. It is soaked with dried sap exuded by the tree which gives it a dark red or even black colour. (Hard, rough soaked sap)
- Tessellated:- bark is broken up into many distinctive flakes. These flakes are like cork and can flake off. (many cork like flakes)
- Box:- has shorter fibre’s (Short fibre’s)
Three Main Groups for Location Identification
- Forest trees
- Woodland trees
- Mallee trees
The introduction of Eucalyptus trees into other countries
Following the Captain Cook expedition in 1770, and Sir Joseph Banks a botanist, was the driving force that subsequently started the introduction of the Eucalyptus trees to the world. Today these magnificent trees can be found in countries such as; California, Brazil, Spain, Morocco, Uganda and Israel.
The interest was due to the many valuable uses these trees provide and the importance they have economically, such as:
Being one of the fastest growing sources of wood, saw milling, pulp, charcoal, timber for building homes, bridges, furniture, musical instruments, firewood, essential oils (therapeutically), essential oils (cleaning products), essential oils (used as a natural insecticide), paper, tissue, mulch, fertiliser, dyes and more.
These trees were recognised for their fast growth, as an evergreen tree, providing shade for smaller trees and because of the large clusters of flowers that blossom almost all year round. This added bonus has made the bees and the bee keepers very happy, producing larger quantities’ of honey for longer periods during the year.
The Eucalyptus Camaldulensis, imported from Australia was used as an aid to dry out swamps; this significantly reduced the amount of mosquitoes, thus reducing risk of malaria.
Eucalypts are well adapted for periodic fires; in fact most species are dependent on them for the spread and regeneration. They grow back very quickly. However, Alpine Ash and Mountain Ash only grow back from seeds.
Most Eucalypts are not frost tolerant, but species like the, Snowy gums, Eucalyptus paucilflora, is capable of withstanding cold, snow and frost about, -20 degrees
Eucalyptus trees have a habit of dropping entire branches as they grow. That’s why when you visit a Eucalypt forest you see the ground littered with dead branches. They say that some species of gum trees drop branches un-expectantly, known as “summer branch drop”, such as the River Red gums. It has been noticed to occur mostly during droughts, when trees shed whole branches to save water. Some of these branches weigh a lot, due to the high density and high resin content. Therefore, it is best not to camp under a large Eucalypt.
The Ghost gum, Eucalyptus papuana, sometimes called the ‘widow maker’, named thus because of the high number of workers killed by the falling branches, as they sat or camped underneath them. Note, these branches and even very large ones, can be shed at any time so be mindful, in particular during the summer months.
The magnificent Red Gums, trunks and branches change from orange in summer and lighter orange/pinkish grey in the winter. In December these trees are adorned with bunches of white flowers. When I see them in great numbers up high on a mountain or fly over them, it looks like snow, absolutely brilliant.
The sap which exudes from any break in the bark is called kino. This is the trees normal reaction to mechanical damage, it oozes, like the tree is bleeding and it usually is bright red in colour. Some species ooze large amounts from their wounds, but with the air and sun exposure the sap hardens.
Kino is used in different ways, for example, having a natural defense mechanism it protects the wood from ship worm and borers, and the tannin, has been used for dyeing fabrics.
Other interesting facts about the Eucalyptus trees
- On warm days, in Eucalyptus forests sometimes you can see a bluish smog-like haze, it is the volatile oils (compounds known as terpinoids), that the leaves emit, hence the name Blue Mountains, in Australia.
- Several Eucalypts species are among the tallest trees in the world, namely the E. Regnans, the Australian ‘Mountain Ash’ and the tallest named Centurion is over 327 feet tall, (approximately 100m).
- The Ghost gum’s leaves were used by Aboriginals to catch fish; the leaves contain a substance that stuns the fish.
- Didgeridoos, known as an important wind instrument, were made by tree trucks that usually were hollowed out by termites.
- They oxygenate the air.
- Are useful homes for many beneficial insects and other wildlife such the koala and the many varieties of birds.
- And for us to respect, admire and enjoy.
Love and Appreciate the Miracle and the Gift of Nature
By Margaret Ann Loveday (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife. Lover of Nature)
References: Brooker.I.,Kleining,D. (1996) Eucalyptus, An illustrated guide to identification, Reed Books, Port Melbourne.; Brooker.M.I.H.;Kleining,D.A.(2006). Field Guide to the Eucalyptus. Melbourne;Bloomings.3rd edition.;Wikipedia’Eucalyptus.;Eucalyptus camaldulensis in wildflowers of Israel, E.Aloni & M.Livne.;Brooker.M.I.H.;Kleining,D.A.(2006). Field Guide to the Eucalyptus. Melbourne;Bloomings.3rd edition.;Wikipedia’List of Eucalyptus’.
You are welcome to enjoy reading ‘Emily’, available in ebook and paperback www.amazon.com/dp/0992477409 or other online stores
For Australian online store try Angus and Robertson/Bookworld