Here in Australia we are celebrating National Eucalyptus Day today, 23 March 2020.
The fossil evidence for the first known Eucalypt was from the Tertiary 35-40 million years ago. There are over 900 species of Eucalypts in the Family Myrtaceae in Australia.
I share with you my favourite Eucalypt that is growing in a friend’s yard. It is the lemon scented gum, Corymbia citriodora. It naturally occurs in northern Australia but has been grown across Australia in parks and home gardens over the years.
It has smooth white to pink bark, narrow lance-shaped to curved adult leaves, flower buds in groups of three, white flowers and urn-shaped or barrel-shaped fruit.
The lemon scented gum is a tree that typically grows to a height of 25–40 m (82–131 ft), sometimes to 50 m (160 ft). This specimen is approx 25m high with a canopy of more than 15m width. The girth is over 1 metre in diameter. It was planted in 1962 and so is 58 years old.
This tree drops its leaves all year round and when the leaves are crushed by walkng over or mowing they release their fragrant lemon scented oils.
From time to time it also drops branches in windstorms and at other times, making it a dangerous tree for the home garden. Even small branches falling can be dangerous because they may seem small, but the wood is dense and very heavy and certainly pose a hazard when they fall. Children should not be allowed to play under this tree. Drivers park near this tree at their peril too. Because of their enormous size and habit of dropping branches they should really never have been planted in suburbia. In spite of this it is an inspiring and beautiful tree.
It is a magnificent host for all manner of wildlife and is a tree of seasons:
The leaves fall all year round.
Its nectar rich flowers burst open in winter through spring and scatter their sticky stamens as the native birds gorge themselves on the nectar in flocks of noisy chatter and fights.
The flowers are also very attractive to bees and a swarm settled nearby one year with the prospect of plenty of pollen
Eucalyptus flowers produce a great abundance of nectar, providing food for many pollinators including insects, birds, and fruit bats.
We have seen a miriad of birds attracted by its flowers and shady respite in the long hot summers. The Tawney frogmouth, lorikkets, corellas, cockatoos, galahs, kookaburras, kurrawongs and magpies are just some of the species it is host to over the year.
Its also a haven for insects of all kinds and here is the Titan stick insect that feeds on the leaves of the tree. They are often seen in nearby gardens.
In the spring it sheds its bark exposing the smooth new fresh snowy white bark below, which falls over a wide area in the street and gardens surrounding it.
This Eucalypt has been an imposing tree in the neighbourhood, a mixture of grand beauty and habitat for so many species for over half a century. Its leafy branches bring cooling shade during the mid 40 degree scorching summers days of Sydney, and it stands stark white in dark storms, hinting at danger as everyone looks out to see if branches have fallen.
It is a tree that makes itself known.
Though it is an evergreen it has seasons of “fall”: constantly falling leaves; falling flowers and falling bark that can be loved or hated depending on how it affects people. The delightful lemony perfume of its leaves under foot remind you that its there too, as do the comings and goings of the many species that love and visit it and this keeps one looking out at it over the seasons.
Looking up through the leaves to the ever changing blue sky and clouds is a soothing vantage point to enjoy this lovely tree (while also keeping a safe distance).
As i write this I realise that I miss seeing it as I am in Melbourne caring for my mum over the terrible times of the world ravaged by the Coronavirus pandemic. Thank goodness for our National Eucalyptus Day.
Thinking of this beautiful tree is calming and writing about it has taken my mind off the constant news casts that are so unsettling. I hope that all the readers to this site are well and I hope that you all find some way to get through these days. My very best to you all.