Eucalyptus trees originate from the land down under, where koalas and kangaroos are home. It has long been introduced to other countries and is famous for its oily leaves and the ability to grow fast. However, it has more secrets worth unleashing. Here are 9 facts about the eucalyptus tree you probably haven’t heard before.
The name eucalyptus derives from the Greek words eu- (well) and kaluptos (cover) meaning well-covered. This statement refers to the operculum on the calyx that initially conceals the flower, the most recognizable characteristics of the eucalyptus species. Because the flowers are in the operculum composed of the fused petals, they have no petals. Instead, they decorate themselves with numerous fluffy stamens. These can be white, cream, yellow, red, or pink. As the stamens expand, the operculum is forced off, splitting away from the cup-like base of the flower.
Eucalyptus trees are also known as “gum trees” because of the sticky rubbery substance that flows from the injured bark. The gum that flows out of the breaks in the bark can be compared to blood. So not chewy at all. The fruit of these trees is thus called gum nut.
3. A plant? A fruit? A flower?
Gum nuts are the woody fruits of eucalyptus trees. Though they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, most of them are usually shaped like a sealed cup, a cone, or a capsule. The gum nuts are a compound structure of supporting tissue, the hypanthium, and the ovary. So they are non-edible. Moreover, the valves at the end of the fruit open to release the waxy, yellow-brown seeds.
4. All the beautiful colors of the rainbow
Though there are more than 700 species of eucalyptus, one type has certainly received great attention; the Eucalyptus deglupta, commonly known as the rainbow eucalyptus. This tall beauty is native to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines, where it can grow over 80 meters tall. Outside its habitat, it can grow up to 38 meters tall. The most distinctive feature of the Eucalyptus deglupta is its multi-hued bark. The rainbow eucalyptus sheds its bark several times per year and reveals a bright green inner bark. This then darkens and matures to give blue, purple, orange and then maroon tones. Absolutely beautiful!
5. Snake alert
Unlike the rainbow eucalyptus, the other types of eucalyptus trees shed their bark only once per year. With the manner of the bark shed, the age of the plant, the length of the bark fibers, and its thickness, hardness, and color, the appearance of the eucalyptus bark varies. All mature eucalypts put on an annual layer of bark. Naturally, this contributes to the increasing diameter of the stem.
6. A true masterpiece
Eucalyptus haemastoma, the scribbly gum, is an Australian small to medium-sized eucalypt that is named after the “scribbles” on its bark. The scribbles, which resemble zigzag tracks, are tunnels made by the Ogmograptis scribula, larvae of the scribbly gum moth.
This work of art follows the insect’s life cycle. Meaning that after the eggs are laid and the larvae start to move, the tracks are made. The tracks end where the larvae stop to pupate. The scribbles are made between layers of old and new bark. The larvae burrow into the new bark and as the old bark falls away, the trails are revealed, releasing gum.
7. Caution – Authorized personnel only
Eucalyptus leaves are very fibrous and low in nutrition. To most animals, they are extremely poisonous. Even a large amount of oil can be toxic. The toxins are thought to be produced by the trees as a protection against animals who eat the leaves, like insects. The only mammals which can survive on a diet of eucalyptus leaves are koalas, greater glider, and ringtail possums.
8. A unique smell
Eucalyptus trees are most popular for their oil. The eucalyptus oil is made from the tree’s oval-shaped leaves. They are dried, crushed, and distilled to release the essential oil. Significant producers of true eucalyptus oil include South Africa, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, Australia, Chile, and Swaziland. The oil is categorized into three broad types in the trade according to the main end-use: industrial, medicinal, and perfumery. The most important component is the cineole-based oil, a colorless mobile liquid with a penetrating, strong, woody-sweet scent. However, this liquid turns yellow with age.
9. Let’s dig in!
Besides the infamous oil, eucalyptus trees can produce honey. The high-quality monofloral honey – named so because it comes from plants – is extracted by the nectar of the tree. A well-known eucalyptus honey species is the Blue gum which grows in Tasmania and South Australia. Its honey is yellow in color and dense in texture. This variety is popularly used as a breakfast or ice-cream drizzle – delicious!
Some interesting facts; makes you look at eucalyptus trees in a different way. If you think you know enough, take this quiz to test yourself.