National Eucalyptus Day

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.

Lemon scented gum2020-03-22
To give you an idea of the span of this tree, each fence panel is 1.8m wide.

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.

Eucalyptus flowers2

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

IMG_20181103_095614-Swarm of bees
This swarm of 10,000 bees settled in an adjoining garden attracted by the flowers. They were eventually re homed with a local bee keeper.

Eucalyptus flowers produce a great abundance of nectar, providing food for many  pollinators including insects,  birds, and fruit bats.

fruit bats-2237209_1920
Fruit bats take up residence at night screeching as they set off foraging for food

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.

Lorrikeets arrive in flocks to enjoy the nectar from the flowers.
Corellas are another species that is often seen in the tree in flocks.
noisy miners-4772247_1920
The noisy Australian miner birds argue with the lorikeets for the best spots to access nectar.
Kurrawongs arrive in swirling, cawing flocks to take up residence for a litle while along their journey.
From time to time the tree is visited by Kookaburras too.
The amazing Tawny Frogmouth was is able to be well camouflaged.

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.

IMG_20160405_153756-Stick insect close up
Look carefully for the stick insect in this picture.

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.Bark coming off a gumtree

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.


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