Eucalyptus is a genus of flowering evergreen trees and shrubs with more than 700 species native to Australia. Trees can range from 33ft to over 200 ft in height. Many of the species have glossy leaves covered with oil glands.
The trees are easily characterized by their fluffy flowers, which can be white, yellow, pink or red. Interestingly, these flowers don’t have petals; they have showy stamens instead. As well, most species don’t flower until adult foliage starts to appear. These flowers produce an abundance of nectar and is a source of food for insects, birds, bats and possums.
Fun Facts about the Eucalyptus
- Eucalyptus is also known as gum trees for the sticky sap that oozes out of the bark.
- The name “Eucalyptus” came from the Greek words, “eu” meaning well and “kalyptos,” meaning covered, referring to the bud cap that initially covers the flower.
- Eucalyptus is valued for its fast-growing wood.
- The oil that can be used for cleaning and as a natural insecticide.
- The root system absorbs a ton of water; it is often planted near swamps to drain excess water to reduce the risk of malaria in tropical regions.
- The essential oil extracted from the tree can be toxic, if ingested in large quantities.
- Eucalyptus is used in cold and flu medicine, soaps, insect repellants and dental hygiene products.
- The diet of koala bears consists mainly of eucalyptus leaves.
- The oil is highly flammable; ignited trees have been known to explode!
- Eucalyptus trees are among the tallest trees in the world.
- The wood is commonly used to make digeridoos, a traditional instrument from Australia.
- All parts of the plant can be used to make fabric dyes; colours range from yellow and orange through to green, tan, chocolate and red.