Flora & Fauna – River Red Gum
By Scott Mason
The beautiful Eucalyptus camaldulensis, or river red gum, is the most widespread eucalypt in Australia, often seen in large clusters, dominating the riverside and dry creekbeds of our inland areas. Along the east coast it is replaced by the closely-related forest red gum.
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It is a big (up to 45m tall) and majestic tree with one or several large main trunks closely followed by several twisted and heavy limbs with a large spreading crown. The bark is rather smooth and is seen in white, grey, blue, cream and reddish patches. In late spring and summer profuse white flowering occurs, which attracts birdlife and bees, the flowers are rich in nectar.
The river red gum is the most popularly cultivated eucalypt globally; aside from its regarded attributes in erosion control and soil stabilisation, the wood is prized for its strength, burn quality and resistance to termites and decay. It is an important tree in Aboriginal culture, ground up seeds and resident grubs are a great source of food and the young leaves are mixed with equal parts of water to form a medicinal balm (lerp) to treat fever, headaches and colds.
Now for the kicker, the larger trees will actually shed their heavy lower limbs as they mature. There is no visible sign of pending failure, the branches, some weighing over 20 tonnes will simply fall to the ground without warning – a great reason to set up camp outside of the dripline!