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Facts About the Eucalyptus Tree - Description and Uses

A graduate in botany, Nithya Venkat enjoys writing about plants that help sustain life on planet Earth.

Eucalyptus Trees

Eucalyptus Trees

Eucalyptus trees are evergreen trees that are native to Australia. They are one amongst the oldest trees that existed on earth about 50 million years ago. They are commonly referred to as “gum trees.”

Eucalyptus trees belong to the Eucalyptus genus, Myrtle family, and have more than 600 species. They can grow a height ranging from 30 -200 feet tall.

They are cultivated in the tropical and sub-tropical regions in Australia, America, Europe, India, Africa, Philippines, Indonesia, and New Guinea.

Description of the Eucalyptus Tree

Eucalyptus trees do not grow very well in cold climates. They can only tolerate cold temperatures up to -4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Eucalyptus niphophila also called “white sallee” and “snow gum” is the hardiest of all eucalyptus varieties; it can grow in freezing temperatures as low as -4 degree Fahrenheit.

Eucalyptus pauciflora is an exception and can grow in temperatures as low as -20 degrees celsius.

Eucalyptus trees are usually single-stemmed. Some trees branch out after growing a short distance from the ground. The trunk of the eucalyptus tree is almost square in shape.

Eucalyptus trees, referred to as “Mallees,” are multi-stemmed from ground level. They are usually about 10 m in height. Some of the Mallees grow very close to the ground resembling shrubs.

Eucalyptus regnans (Australian Mountain Ash) is the tallest of all the flowering plants in the world. Eucalyptus trees that exceed 80 m in height are – Eucalyptus oblique, Eucalyptus delegatensis, Eucalyptus diversicolor, Eucalyptus nitens, Eucalyptus globulus, and Eucalyptus viminalis.

The bark of the eucalyptus tree varies with the age of the tree. Every year the trunk of the eucalyptus tree grows an extra layer that increases the thickness of the trunk. The older layer dies and is shed off slowly.

As the barks shed, the eucalyptus tree displays different textured patterns with vibrant colors. As the bark peels and dries, it often forms colorful patches with varied patterns.

Why do Eucalyptus trees shed their bark?

Eucalyptus trees shed their bark each year to get rid of any mosses, fungus, lichens, and parasites that may live in the bark; this safeguards the health of the tree. Some of the peeling bark can also perform photosynthesis that aids in the rapid growth of the tree.

Types of Barks

In many species, the dead bark is retained. The outermost layer of the dead bark weathers down, gradually giving a different texture and color to the bark as they shed off.

Stringybark – This bark has long strips of the dead trunk, which can be easily peeled off.

Ironbark – This bark is deeply fissured and very hard. The sap oozes out through these cracks and dries on the bark; this causes the bark to turn shades of dark red black.

Tessellated – This bark is broken up into many distinct flakes.

Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree

Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree

The bark of the rainbow eucalyptus tree (Eucalyptus deglupta) creates a rainbow effect as the barks peel off each season revealing the fresh, bright-green bark below. As each layer matures it turne shades of blue, purple, orange, and red.

Leaves of the Eucalyptus Tree

Leaves of the Eucalyptus Tree

Leaves

The leaves of the Eucalyptus trees are long, narrow, and leathery covered with oil glands. The leaves grow in pairs on the opposite side of the stem. The consecutive pairs are at right angles to each other. Each leaf has a small stalk called the petiole.

Flowers

The flowers of the eucalyptus tree have no petals, but instead, they have numerous fluffy stamens that may be white, cream, yellow, pink, or red. In the bud stage, the stamens are enclosed in a cap known as the operculum. The operculum is composed of fused petals or sepals or both. As the stamens expand, the operculum splits open from the cup-like base of the flower.

Flowers of the Eucalyptus Tree

Flowers of the Eucalyptus Tree

Fruits of the Eucalyptus Tree

Fruits of the Eucalyptus Tree

Fruits

The fruits are woody capsules that are cone-shaped with a rough texture. They have valves at the end that open up to release the waxy seeds that are rod-shaped about 1 mm in length and yellow-brown.

Lignotubers

Many of Eucalyptus trees have lignotubers on the crown of their roots. The lignotubers store food and can sprout new shoots. Eucalyptus trees can grow back quickly after forest fires due to these lignotubers buried deep in the soil and are not affected by the forest fires.

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus essential oil has been used in Indigenous Australian medicines for centuries as an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agent for respiratory ailments; this is due to the high concentration of cineole in the barks and the leaves of the eucalyptus tree.

Cineole is a colorless, liquid organic compound also “eucalyptol.” The antiseptic, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties of the eucalyptus oil are due to the presence of cineol.

Uses of the Eucalyptus tree

Medicinal uses

  1. Eucalyptus oil is extracted from the leaves by steam distillation. It is colorless with a strong, sweet, and woody scent. This oil is anti-fungal, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, antiseptic, and antispasmodic due to the presence of cineole.
  2. Eucalyptus oil is used in the manufacture of tablets, rubs, and cough syrups. It is also used in many bath and body products and aromatherapy.
  3. Eucalyptus oil is rich in an antiseptic called cineole. Cineole kills bacteria that cause bad breath, dental decay, and periodontitis. Due to these properties, eucalyptus oil is used in mouthwashes and other dental preparations.
  4. It is rubbed on the knees and joints to relieve arthritis.
  5. Eucalyptus oil is also used in aromatherapy and to make perfumes.

Other uses

  • Eucalyptus trees are used to produce pulpwood. This pulpwood is used to make fine papers and soft tissue papers.
  • Eucalyptus globulus and Eucalyptus grandis are used to make paper because their fibers are short in length and are less coarse and uniform.
  • Eucalyptus oil is used in many insect repellents.
  • Koala bears, ring-tail possums, and a few insects eat all parts of the eucalyptus trees.
  • The bark of the eucalyptus trees is used to make digeridoos, a traditional Aboriginal wind instrument.
  • All parts of the Eucalyptus trees are used to make dyes used on wool and silk fibers.
  • The wood of a eucalyptus tree, commonly known as “Jarrah,” is very durable, fire, and worm resistant and therefore used to make boats, piers, furniture, flooring, telephone poles, tool handles, etc.
  • Eucalyptus trees draw tremendous water from the ground. They have been planted to lower the water table.

Eucalyptus is truly a wonder tree with many uses and benefits.

© 2012 Nithya Venkat

Comments

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 23, 2017:

srsddn thank you for your visit and comments. The fragrance and medicinal properties of the Eucalyptus tree are amazing.

Sukhdev Shukla from Dehra Dun, India on February 23, 2017:

Very informative Hub, Vellur. I have seen thousands of eucalyptus tree in Punjab. Many farmer used to grow these, specially around the boundaries of their lands. However, popularity of these trees have come down as it is felt that the water level has gone down over years in Punjab. I liked the fragrance of these trees. Your description about the usage of these trees has added to my knowledge. Thanks for sharing.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on November 19, 2012:

Kerry43 Australia is a beautiful place. I have been using Eucalyptus oil from the time when I was small. It has a great healing smell. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us.

Kerry43 on November 19, 2012:

One of my favorite scents ever. Having grown up in the Aussie bush, I could almost smell these beautiful gums as I read your article. No better smell in the world than a good old forest of gums after the rain.

Thanks :)

Kerry

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 29, 2012:

Livertis Steele thank you once again.

Levertis Steele from Southern Clime on June 29, 2012:

Interesting and informative!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 31, 2012:

Vellur, yes these trees are water guzzlers, but still useful. They are useful when you want to clear up a water logged area and for their medicinal properties. Thank you for your vote and insightful comments.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 31, 2012:

Vellur, outstanding hub. You have traced out the history, characteristics and the uses of the Eucalyptus tree so well.

One thing I'd to mention here is that these trees are water guzzlers in that wherever they are planted the water level goes down. Hence most of the trees that were planted in Punjab years ago have been cut down.

This doesn't detract from its usefulness though.

Voted up and all the way across.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 31, 2012:

Kelleyward thank you for stopping by and commenting.

Docmo thank you for your appreciation and vote.

Mohan Kumar from UK on May 31, 2012:

I love the smell of Eucalyptus.we used to crush the leaves and smell the oily essence. IT has such wonderful medicinal properties- you have done a detailed, well written hub Nithya- voted up!

kelleyward on May 31, 2012:

Wow I love the smell of Eucalyptus! Thanks for sharing this hub. Voted up and Shared! Take care, Kelley

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 26, 2012:

snowdrops thank you for your wonderful comments.

snowdrops from The Second Star to the Right on May 25, 2012:

Your writings inspired us. Keep it up. This is a great hub with so much info. Thanks!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 25, 2012:

glmclendon thank you, am happy this hub brought to light many facts.

glmclendon on May 25, 2012:

Vellur, you opened many interesting facts I didnot know. thanks for all this info.

Stay Well

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 23, 2012:

KatrineDalMonte thank you, Eucalyptus trees are great to have around. You will soon have three Eucalyptus trees!!

Deborah Brooks thank you for your wonderful comments and vote.

Tonipet thank you, am happy you found my hub useful and interesting. Thank you for your lovely comments and votes.

MazioCreate Australia is really beautiful, thank you for your insightful comments and vote.

MazioCreate from Brisbane Queensland Australia on May 23, 2012:

I love these trees and living in sub-tropical Australia I get to see them all around. There is a beautiful specimen in my neighbours yard. Alloporus mentioned how these trees survive bushfires, fire is also necessary for some types of Eucalyptus to germinate. The heat from the fire is the "cue" for regeneration. Voted up!

Tonette Fornillos from The City of Generals on May 23, 2012:

You always give us info about some important things to know about. I've heard a lot about Eucalyptus, in fact one of my essential oils is eucalyptus. But I just learned the wonder of its whole tree, thanks to you. I'd love to experiment on the leaves and its vapor when immersed in warm water, but that's if I find a good source. Loved your hub, really! I voted up, useful, and interesting!

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on May 23, 2012:

what an interesting and wonderful hub.. thank you for sharing all your knowledge with us..

I voted way up my friend

Debbie

KatrineDalMonte on May 23, 2012:

What a beautiful hub. I have 3 small (at the moment) eucalyptus trees in my garden. I bought them mainly because I heard they tend to grow quite fast. I like your detailed information on various uses of these wonderful trees. Enjoyed reading that, thanks for sharing.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 23, 2012:

Jackie Lynnley thank you. Eucalyptus trees have a great scent and medicinal value.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on May 23, 2012:

I had two of these trees planted until I found out how huge they got. Now I wish I had left one, sounds great! Thanks for the health info, always love that.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 23, 2012:

alloporus thank you for the interesting nugget and appreciation.

alloporus on May 23, 2012:

Thanks Vellur, interesting Hub. One extra nugget is that the reason gum trees are so common in Australia is that they usually survive all but the most severe wild fires. Great work.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on May 23, 2012:

teaches12345 thank you, I love Eucalytus trees and use Eucalyptus oil, so I thought I would make a hub about it.Thank you for your vote too.

cruelkindness thank you, the more the knowledge the better. The world is full of interesting stuff we don't know about!!

cruelkindness from an angle view. on May 23, 2012:

These are my favorite kind of hubs. I love the interesting knowledge about the world.

Voted up

Great presentation in the Hub.

Cruelkindness(Subliminally Thoughtless)

Dianna Mendez on May 23, 2012:

Interesting facts on this tree. I didn't know the oil was so flammable, but it is still use effectively as aromatherapy oils. Great topic and so well covered. Voted up.

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