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Give me a home among the gum trees…

Give me a home among the gum trees…

There is not doubt that the Eucalyptus tree is an icon in Australia. From their familiar scent to the native wildlife that call them home, the beloved gum tree dominates the Australian landscape. And with nearly all the world’s eucalypt species being found in Australia, it’s easy to see why we have claimed them as our own.

Incredibly, research shows that these trees have been around for more than 60 million years. And while they make us feel like home, they also have a very important role to play.

Did you know there are over 900 species of Eucalypts in the world and most of them are only native to Australia? While you often hear the word Eucalyptus tree to describe many in Australia, the truth is that the term Eucalypt is generally used to encompass three plant genera: Eucalypt, which make up the bulk of the species; Corymbia, bloodwood eucalypts mainly found in the north; and Angophora – all which have multiple sub species.

The different species account for the difference in appearance, height, scent and locations where you can find these native trees. Their diversity and resilience make them perfect for the Australian landscape where different species need to withstand high temperatures, frosts, floods and bushfires.

A River Red Gum (Eucalyptus Camaldulensis), taken in Victoria near Walkers Lake.

The tallest of them all, is the Eucalyptus Regnans, often called mountain ash or swamp gum. This mighty Eucalyptus is even the world's tallest flowering plant and one of the world's tallest trees. These towering gums are thought to grow to 100 metres or more, with the tallest living tree on record being Centurion in Tasmania at a confirmed 99.6 metres.

(Although the recent discovery of a giant tree in Borneo might demote the Euclayptus Regnans to second place!)

Ranging from pale yellow to bright pink, eucalypt flowers have evolved to attract specific pollinators. Unlike many flowers, the gum blossom doesn’t consist of petals. The colourful bloom is provided by the stamens, which attract pollinators such as insects or birds.

A close up photo of a bee exploring a gum tree with pink blooms.

A bee exploring the pollen in a gum tree taken on a Greenfleet site. 

When it comes to selecting the plants for our revegetation projects, Greenfleet carefully considers the different species, and the environments in which they will do well. While Eucalypts are native to Australia as a whole, different species grow in different parts of the country, from alpine regions to the outback and edges of rainforests. Therefore, Greenfleet focuses on sourcing trees endemic to the area in which they will be planted to restore the landscape as it would have been pre-clearing.

Recently, however, Greenfleet started to look at diverging from this approach. Our project with Bush Heritage Australia, located in the Nardoo Hills Reserve in Victoria is a little different. To fight the dieback of two species, Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa) and Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora), seeds of the same species are being sourced from hotter environments. The aim of this project is to research how we can futureproof our forests and ensure the trees continue growing despite rising temperatures.

A picture of a Lemon Scented Gum on a sunny blue afternoon

Lemon-scented gum (Corymbia citriodora) taken at one of our Victoria planting sites earlier this year. 

There is a lot to know about these wonderful trees, and research continues to find out more about them. At Greenfleet, we have a great appreciation for the role they play in Australia’s ecosystems. Home to many of our favourite native animals, critical to climate action and Australia’s biodiversity as a whole – we certainly feel lucky to have these trees to call our own.

You can find out more about Eucalypts via The Conversation and CSIRO. And to read more about our collaboration with Bush Heritage, you can read this article.