Backyard Buddies
Eucalypts

Photo: JJ Harrison

Eucalypts

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Eucalypts are commonly known as gum trees and are an iconic Australian tree. There are almost 900 species growing across Australia.

These tall trees provide food and shelter for many birds, insects, and mammals. They also provide hollows for cockatoos, parrots, gliders, possums and other buddies to nest and shelter in. It can take up to 100 years or more for eucalypts to develop tree hollows, so avoid removing any from your place if you can help it.

Unless they are flowering, it can be hard to tell one species from another as they have very similar looking leaves and trunks. Many species also have white flowers that can also be hard to tell apart but in southern Western Australia, many gums have brightly coloured diverse flowers in pink, red and orange.

Gumnuts are a feature of all eucalypts and are a favourite food of rosellas, cockatoos, galahs, parrots and even native cockroaches! Nectar loving birds and bees are also frequent visitors to eucalyptus trees. The types of bird will depend on the type of tree.

Eucalypts shed a layer of bark each year, revealing a smooth new bark which gradually weathers and fades in colour. Many species get their common names from the bark, such as greygum, redgum, stringybark and ironbark. Maybe the most unique of these is the Scribbly Gum, with zigzag marks across the trunk that look like pen scribbles. It is caused by the larvae of the scribbly moth which is actually harmless to the tree. Many other gums host scribbly moths but only the Scribbly Gum has such prominent markings. 

Eucalypts have oil glands in their leaves, giving many species their distinctive smell. The oil has been used for many hundreds of years by Aboriginal people for healing wounds and is today a popular remedy for colds, allergies, respiratory disorders, burns and cuts to name just a few.

The most well-known consumer of eucalyptus leaves is of course the koala. Gum trees are their primary food source and also their home. Koala habitat is in tall open eucalypt forests where they will spend their entire lives. Clearing and development of eucalypts has put enormous pressure on the conservation of koala populations as they rarely survive relocation and are very stressed by dispersal of their social groups.

The Greater Glider and Ringtail Possum also feed on eucalyptus leaves, and when other food is scarce, they can live solely on the leaves for extended periods. 

Related Factsheets:

Sheoak

Sheoaks are very unusual plants because they have separate male and female plants. Each year the males will turn a dusky red colour as they release their pollen. The female trees have small red flowers and lots of seed cones. The sheoak doesn’t have big leaves, instead they have branchlets ..

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”...it’s all connected, your backyard to the big backyard and everything in between – we can all do our bit to help out nature.“

John - National Parks Volunteer, SA

Photo: OEH