Gum trees.

The Australian eucalypt is commonly called a gum tree. Cut it, does it not bleed? Yes it bleeds a bright gum that can be used – depending upon the species – as a glue, a sweetie or a medicine.

The other day a fellow blogger Simret posted a story about gum trees. She hails from somewhere a bit south of Los Angeles and, to plagiarise Warren Zevon-

……if California slides into the ocean
Like the mystics and statistics say it will
I predict that she’ll be writing a long time still.

Her post include a photograph of some gumtrees with great long splits in the bark.

So if anyone else is worried the explanation is clear. During a long dry spell the eucalypt will stop growing and might even start to story nutrients in growths at ground level so that when the rains come, as they surely will, the tree is ready to burst into growth again. Sometimes – often – as in the photo above the growth is so rapid and so vigorous that it is too much for the bark and it splits. It’s rather like the trousers one has happily worn for so long and suddenly you just can’t do up the zip.

But do not worry – actually worry about your waistline, that’s a given, but don’t worry about the tree. It will recover. The only thing that will negatively affect the tree  will be a nervous gardener or an over enthusiastic and ignorant local government official.

Now that I have you attention a little more about eucalypts and trees in general.

When I did woodwork in grade seven – I would have been about twelve – our woodwork teacher declared that there are two major divisions in the tree family; hardwoods and softwoods. Hardwoods come from deciduous trees such as oak and maple and hickory and softwoods come from trees such as pines, cedar and cypress.This distinction was an invention of Europeans and North Americans.

Now being an argumentative type of child – my father told us to question things – I said that gum trees have hard wood but they aren’t deciduous. Our teacher told us that there were some interesting exceptions. “For instance, he said, “the South American balsa is by definition a hardwood. So we might need to muck around with the definition a bit but for the time being stop arguing and get on with your work.”

Then later on in life some smart person said that the gum tree was in fact a deciduous tree it’s just that it drops its leaves all the time summer, winter, spring and autumn. Anyone with a gum tree in their garden will agree.

There are a few other interesting things about gum trees.

Eucalypts showing very obvious epicormic shoots. Epicormic buds lie dormant beneath the bark, their growth suppressed by hormones from active shoots higher up the plant. When the tree produces shoots on leading branches these epicormic shoots will fall off and the tree will get back to growing normally.

These shoots come from the reserved nutrients in the roots.

A couple of weeks after the Marysville fires 2009 and the tree ferns have put on growth. There is a bit of a waterfall in the background.

The same little waterfall 2015.





9 thoughts on “Gum trees.

    1. That’s not all Peggy. Many gum trees actually drop a type of herbicide that inhibits the growth of anything that could compete with them for nutrients. It is because much of Australia’s soils are generally quite poor in nutritional levels.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Thank you so much for that very clear explanation of the split trunks. Yes, we had 6 years of severe drought, followed by last winter’s normal rainfall (approximately 15 inches during the year), so it is quite clear that these trees suddenly experienced more growth than the bark could sustain. The regrowth of trees is fascinating — we see it often in areas of brushfires, where it occurs very quickly after the fires are extinguished. I love the quote — and hope it will be true — actually I hope we don’t have that severe a quake that my continued writing is in jeopardy, but we have had some good temblors in Southern California recently! Janet


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