An Introduction to Eucalyptus
by Jill Dark
Eucalypts belong to the family Myrtaceae, one of the major plant families with about 70 genera in Australia. The name comes from the Greek myron meaning perfume and refers to the characteristic smell of the family.
The genus name Eucalyptus comes from the Greek eu, well; and calyptos, covered; and refers to the bud cap covering the flower.
Angophora comes from the Greek angos, jar; and phoros, bearing; alluding to the cup-like fruits.
Corymbia is from the Latin corymbus, meaning a cluster of flowers.
There are well over 800 species of Eucalyptus. Most are endemic to Australia, about 8 species growing in New Guinea. As new species are discovered, or present species split, 800 is a very conservative estimate. In fact there are probably over 900 species.
The first specimens were probably collected by Banks and Solander in 1770. Corymbia gummifera collected from Botany Bay was originally called Metrosideros gummifera by Solander. Banks was the first person to refer to eucalypts as “gum trees”.
Although many species were collected by various expeditions it was not until 1788 the genus Eucalyptus was first named. Charles Louis L’Heritier de Brutelle, who had never seen them growing in their natural state, called a specimen collected from Tasmania on Cook’s third voyage, Eucalyptus obliqua.
The Blue Mountains World Heritage Area contains well over 100 species and the diversity of the eucalyptus genus was one of the reasons for world heritage nomination. There are probably about 60 species in Blue Mountains National Park. Some species are common, others extremely rare and restricted to small areas.
Brooker, M I H, & Kleinig, D A. Field Guide to Eucalypts. Vol 1., Inkata Press,1990.
Burgess, C. Blue Mountain Gums, 1963.
Hay, A. Gum, Duffy & Snelgrove, 2002.
Pellow, B J et al. Flora of the Sydney Region. 5th ed., Syd UP, 2009.