Tuesday, September 13, 2016

‘Gum Trees’ - Did You Know?

All gum trees are eucalypts but not all eucalypts are gum trees.
The gum tree is one of Australia’s most recognised icons.
Gum trees are very adaptable to a range of climates and conditions – snow, drought, floods, fires, poor soil, etc.
There are over 850 species of eucalypts and they evolved about 70 million years ago.
‘Eucalyptus’ is Greek for ‘well covered’, referring to the cap of the bud.

The typical closed-capped buds of an eucalypt
Eucalypts are grown in over 100 countries worldwide – USA, Spain, Italy, Israel, India, China, etc.
The River Red Gum is thought to be the most widely distributed species – anywhere there is an old creek bed and some occasional flooding.
Many large eucalypts are ‘high-rise’ habitats – from root bacteria in the ‘basement’, reptiles and invertebrates under the bark of the ‘middle floors’, up to the birds and mammals in the hollows and the canopy of the ‘roof gardens’.

One of the giant Mountain Grey Gums in Hearn Park
Eucalyptus oil is contained within glands in the leaves. (Australia imports more than 80% of its eucalyptus oil from countries like China and Brazil!)
Blue coloured mountain ranges are due to eucalyptus oil vapour in the atmosphere.

An old 4 tank eucalyptus still at Wyalong, NSW - (courtesy of the Wattle Brand Eucalyptus Oil Co.)
The Mountain Ash, Eucalyptus regnans, is the world’s tallest flowering plant yet its seed is barely 2mm long.
The world’s tallest tree in 1884 was a Mountain Ash at Thorpdale – the Cornthwaite brothers proved the fact by cutting it down and measuring it, (114.3m)!

Young regrowth Mountain Ash in Mt Worth State Park
Eucalypt plantations are being used around the world to sequester carbon.
Many eucalypts over 100 years old form numerous hollows that are readily used by a variety of birds, mammals and reptiles for roosting and nesting.
Victoria has about 30 endemic eucalypts, (found naturally occurring nowhere else). Even Drouin and district has an endemic eucalypt, the Strzelecki Gum.

Eucalyptus Strzeleckii, endemic to West Gippsland area - McNeilly Wetlands
It is thought that gum leaves hang down to allow as much sun as possible to reach the ground below and to allow rain droplets to fall directly to the root zone.
In drought conditions some eucalypts can turn their leaves edge on to the sun light to minimize evaporation.
A gum leaf can be made into a useful ‘band-aid’ in an emergency.
The evocative nature of eucalypts has been described by singers, songwriters, artists, photographers and poets ever since settlement. Soldiers returning home by ship from the two world wars were said to be able to smell eucalyptus before land was sighted.

The gum tree is Australian as Aussie as can be
And there's no more Australian than the eucalyptus tree
They have been in Australia perhaps since life began
Thousands and thousands of years before coming of man.
        Francis Duggan – a very prolific poet from Victoria (rhymeonly blog –worth a look)

PS: The dulcet tones of Judy and Peter can be heard here, when they were interviewed a while back by Lyn Wells of 3BBR FM - includes a brief musical interlude.
And, you can listen directly online to 3BBR FM our wonderful local radio station via SHOUTcast.

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