What to Plant in May

The following is a list of vegetables that you can plant in May in Sydney, a temperate zone (just click on the link for the growing guide for each vegetable):

Plant of the Month – The beautiful Eucalyptus leucoxylon – (yellow gum)

All the images on this post (taken May 2021) can be enlarged to show greater detail. Just click on the image.

Eucalyptus leucoxylon, is such a stunning tree when covered in masses of pink flowers that you just have to stop and admire this beautiful tree, as I did when I was in Melbourne and took these pictures.

The tree is commonly known as Blue Gum in South Australia for its blue green foliage, and as Yellow Gum in Victoria for its hard yellowish wood. It is also known as white iron bark gum.

Eucalyptus leucoxylon, endemic to South Eastern Australia, is a long-lived small to medium sized evergreen tree with an average height of 10-30 metres in ideal conditions.

At its base it forms a lignotuber (a woody swelling at the root crown) that has embedded vegetative buds from which new stems sprout for regrowth after the crown is destroyed, for example by fire. This protective structure also stores starch to help it through the regeneration period when photosynthesis is absent.

The image below shows the lignotuber at the base of the trunk.

Pink and red flowers that are about 30mm across, abound in profusion from late autumn through to late spring.

The flower buds are arranged in groups of three in leaf axils on an unbranched stalk called a peduncle. This distinguishes this Eucalypt from Eucalyptus sideroxylon which also has pink flowers.

The stamens are all the same length. The outer stamens are sterile while it is the inner stamens that are fertile.

Detail of the flowers showing the groups of three and the inner parts of the flower.

Mature buds are diamond shaped and spherical across. The operculum is the cap-like covering of the flower or fruit that detaches at maturity.  In Eucalypts, there are two. The outer operculum is shed early in the development of the bud leaving a scar around the bud. When the stamens expand, just before flowering, the inner operculum is shed and they are able to release their pollen. The two stages of bud maturity can be clearly seen in the image below, where some buds have the scar and immature buds have yet to release the outer operculum.

The maturing buds, some showing the scar and the flowers that have unfurled from within,

Adult leaves are narrow, lance shaped or curved and are arranged alternately along the stem. The are a blue/grey green and are slightly glossy on both sides, 60–185 mm long and 10–30 mm wide, tapering where they meet the stem.

Detail of the leaf colour and shape.

Eucalyptus leucoxylon usually has a single straight trunk. The upper trunk and branches are smooth and creamy yellow or bluish gray. The bark is shed in irregular flakes and strips with some rough bark persisting near the lower 2 m at the base.

The beautiful colouring of the trunk and the masses of flowers can be seen in the image below.

As it is native to a dry-summer climate, Eucalyptus leucoxylon is harder to grow in more humid climates such as in Sydney and Brisbane.

Nonetheless, it tolerates adverse conditions such as heat, wind, drought, and heavy or rocky soils and grows best in full sun. It grows well in alkaline soils.

Eucalyptus leucoxylon needs very little water, so overwatering should be avoided. Once a month, depending on the rainfall conditions and supplementing this during dry years is recommended.

When establishing, the tree should be pruned to keep it narrow and upright, and reduce long overhanging branches, which are susceptible to breakage in high winds.

The beautiful Eucalyptus leucoxylon showing its height and profusion of flowers.

It is so attractive to nectar loving birds, for nesting, bees, butterflies, and other insects who flock to it during its long flowering period. It provides habitat to a variety of vertebrates and invertebrates.

One thing the pictures don’t show is the cacophony of the birds up in the tree, screeching for space to guzzle the abundant nectar from the pink blooms, while I stood there amazed at the utter beauty of this yellow gum, planted as a street tree. At the same time I was sad that I couldn’t accommodate one in my own small garden in Sydney!

The beautiful yellow gum is a great tree for shade if you have the space on a larger property or for the streetscape. If you don’t have large garden but the climatic conditions in your area are suitable, there is always the variety ‘Euky Dwarf’ growing to a height of 5–6 m tall and 3–4 m wide. Create a special habitat in your own garden with Eucalyptus leucoxylon! Look out for it as you travel around Victoria and NSW.

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