It’s been growing for nearly a hundred years — this magnificent Eucalyptus mellidora tree, down at the entrance of our property near the post box. For a brief time it bursts into flower, swathed in garlands of tiny white blooms, bristling with brush-like stamens. It may of interest to note that eucalyptus flowers have no petals. Instead they decorate themselves with multitudes of white, cream, yellow, pink or white stamens in different shapes and sizes. Long slender leaves, growing in pairs from opposite sides of the stem, frame the flowers. This creates a stunning effect that cries out to be photographed.
Australia has 2,800 species of eucalypts — gum trees as we call them. These hardy trees grow in all areas from sub-alpine to wet coastal forests, all through the temperate woodlands and into the dry inland semi-desert areas. Nearly all eucalypts are evergreens. As with other members of the myrtle family, their leaves are covered with oil glands that exude abundant sap from breaks occurring in their bark or leaves. Eucalyptus flowers also produce a profusion of nectar providing the perfect food source for birds, insects, bats, koala bears and possums.
Particular gum trees have attracted the attention of environmentalists and global development researchers because of their desirable traits: fast-growing sources of timber for building, firewood and pulpwood, producing medicinal and cleaning products and used as an insecticide. Eucalyptus oil is steam distilled from leaves and can be found as a food additive in sweets, in cough drops and deodorants.
The bark of the Eucalyptus mellidora, is amazingly beautiful. Coarse, rough-hewn sheets of old bark are continually breaking open as they shed themselves in an effort to regenerate the new growth appearing underneath. It’s not uncommon to view a bush landscape clad in its austere, muted grey-green colours, also being covered in shards of hanging bark.
Eucalypts were first introduced from Australia to the rest of the world by Sir Joseph Banks, the botanist aboard the Captain Cook expedition of 1770. Here in Australia, the distinctive scent of eucalypts prevails everywhere and the sight of these remarkable trees fills us with delight. I take special pleasure in observing our Eucalyptus mellidora, seeing it as a part of this land that never ceases to inspire me.
Photo by Mary Mageau. Click Here to visit Mary Mageau’s blog: Nature as Art and Inspiration.