The eucalypt, or eucalyptus (either form is acceptable and correct, but it’s usually “eucalypt” in Australia—or else they just call it a gum tree) is the signature trea of the Australian landscape. About 75 percent of the trees in Australia are eucalypts. However, not only are most Australian trees eucalypts, but most eucalypts are Australian. Of roughly 650-700 different species of eucalypt, only seven occur naturally outside Australia. (All those eucalyptus trees in Southern California are imports.)
Sometimes the name makes it clear that trees are eucalypts/gums, such as blue gum, river red gum, spinning gum, or lemon-scented gum. However, many have names that don’t give the genus away, including the jarrah, giant karri, ironbark, bloodwood, and mallee. Eucalyps are evergreens. However, though they don’t shed their leaves, many species shed their bark. They range from short and scrubby to towering giants that rival the redwoods. Their flowers come in a wide range of colors and sizes. They are graceful but incredibly hardy, enduring a wide range of difficult climates. In fact, they are virtually created for disaster, as their seeds are germinated by forest fires.
I have always loved eucalypts. My first experience of them was in Southern California, but I loved them instantly. I certainly didn’t go to Australia to see gum trees, but their presence everywhere I went offered endless delight, and I have a lot of photographs of eucalyptus trees.
Among the many species of gum trees, one of my favorites is the ghost gum. This denizen of the outback is splendid in its pristine whiteness. It stands in wonderful contrast to the red rocks or blazing blue sky that forms its usual backdrop.