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Up From Oz

September 1, 2010

Tall drink of water

While taking pictures for the previous post I was struck by the sight of our enormous eucalyptus tree … easily close to 100 feet tall, it may be the tallest tree in the neighborhood and can be seen from a great distance. Realizing I didn’t really know much about this tree (other than Koalas appear to enjoy a leisurely nosh on their leaves) I did some investigation: Eucalyptuses are from the myrtle family of flowering trees and shrubs, and there are more than 700 species, most native to Australia and Tasmania. They’re also called ‘gum trees’ because they’re very sappy at bark breaks. They have many uses, which include employing their oils for medicinal purposes, and as insecticides. (I’m partial to this eucalyptus-scented room spray for parties) The most fascinating fact I found was that eucalyptuses are sometimes planted to combat malaria! How? Well, they absorb large quantities of water from underground, preventing water accumulation. This deprives malaria-carrying mosquitoes their breeding ground; no standing water, no mosquito larvae incubation ward. And, while it’s true Koala bears do love their leaves, so, too, does that other, less-cuddly marsupial, the possum. *shudder* Fast growers, eucalyptuses also rival redwoods in the height department … even growing taller than the famed California Sequoia. I’m not sure ours will grow so tall, but when I look up at it, especially when lit at night, it seems to go on forever …

Bob, and wife, in eucalyptus shadow

Eucalyptus trees shed their bark in great, long shreds, and ours is no different. I didn’t notice this so much when the area outside our fence was cluttered with the previous pepper trees, but now that it’s clear I’m amazed by how much falls daily. As the bark falls off, it leaves great diagonal striations on the tree’s trunk, and the contrasting colors of the dry bark shreds and newly exposed trunk is really beautiful. The trunk itself, once laid bare, is also very interesting and in some ways has the look of smooth, cool flesh. A true tree-hugger’s delight, it really feels good to wrap one’s arms around it, pressing first one cheek, then the other, to the pinky-brown expanse (ahem) … It’s a myth that oils from eucalyptus trees will somehow injure plants growing nearby, and it’s also myth that they’re invasive. Eucalyptus comes from the Greek word for ‘well-covered’ and refers to the calyx that surrounds and protects the flower. The nectar produced by these flowers is a favorite of bees and other insects, as well as possums.*shudder* Our eucalyptus also has the added visual interest of having branches and foliage mostly on the left side, probably because of high winds each day in the late afternoon and early evening. It has a slight lean that makes it seem a little precarious. I love our eucalyptus — I’ve hugged our eucalyptus.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 1, 2010 4:25 pm

    Unfortunately gums are susceptible to sudden loss of branches or entirely keeling over in strong winds. They bring down electric wires and have been known to split houses. I have witnessed both events.

    If your gum is in danger of crashing onto the road or a house, I urge you to consult an arborist.

    I am growing Eucalyptus nicholii and Eucalyptus perriniana in Loma Linda and plan to have them topped before they become dangerous, rather than deal with a later expensive mess.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      September 1, 2010 4:28 pm

      I have seen the fallen branches, but they’re, by-and-large, very small ones. I confess I do worry about the tree’s lean; we did have an arborist look at it and he recommended we remove a much smaller, even more-leaning eucalyptus tree that was growing at its base, which we did. It was threatening to topple over and thereby take down our fence …. Thanks for the advice, Marjory!

  2. September 1, 2010 4:44 pm

    After I got over staring at the beauty of the first picture it was the lean of the tree that then caught my eye. Does it creak in a windstorm?

    But seriously…that first shot is just amazing. The neighbors must love what you’ve done! What are the two smaller buildings in the corners of the fence? If you’ve talked about them n the past I’ve missed it.

    Oh and I know it’s the wrong reaction to have but I want to hug those agaves!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      September 1, 2010 4:50 pm

      Hiya… no, the tree doesn’t creak but it does produce a great rustling of its foliage … it’s really awesomely calming … I loved that pic, too… which is why I had to run it, although it was so similiar to the other post’s; it really showed the tree’s immensity off nicely … the neighbors are very complimentary and appreciative … those other two sheds are actually recycled wooden storage crates used for shipping trade show backdrops overseas; I had my brother-in-law clad them in corrugated steel and create roofs for them. He added a stabilizing concrete foundation and voilá: garden tool sheds. I love my agaves, too, but not enough to hug them… just clearing leaves from their bases has left scars!

  3. June 11, 2011 10:06 pm

    A bit of marsupial confusion, maybe?

    This is the Australian Possum:
    http://www.richard-seaman.com/Mammals/Australia/index.html
    It’s actually pretty cute, I think.

    This is the new world Opossum:
    http://trapperran.yolasite.com/possums.php
    Which is usually encountered looking like this:
    http://www.animalsintheatticwashington.com/washington_opossum_pest_control_removal.htm
    Not so cute.

    I’m not sure our Opossum likes eucalyptus leaves.

    All I know is those trees throw an annoying amount of waste about. I’m sure it’s no more than a deciduous tree drops, but it’s all freakin’ year long. And I can’t compost the leaves, they aren’t microbe friendly so they make terrible soil additives.

    If I had a choice of two pests to get rid of, I might tolerate the Opossum and take out the Euc!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      June 11, 2011 11:42 pm

      Eeek! I live in total fear of having to remove our eucalyptus… it’s just too huge to not be an enormous pain in the rear! … and new, or old world, possums just aren’t my friend! For some reason they terrify me.

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