Tasmanian Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus) is one of 500 Eucalyptus species native to Australia. Proclaimed as the floral emblem of Tasmania on 27 November 1962, the Tasmanian Blue Gum was first collected by a French Botanist, Jacques-Julien Houton de Labillardiere (1755-1834), on the south-east coast of Tasmania in 1792-93. A keen collector of plants and animals, Labillardiere also recorded detailed accounts of the Australian Aboriginals he observed. Plant specimens he collected are now housed in the Museum of Florence.
When growing in favourable conditions, the Tasmanian Blue Gum is a tall, straight tree which grows on average to 30 to 55 metres in height and 2 metres in trunk diameter. The tallest currently known specimen in Tasmania is 90.7 m tall. The tree has rough grey/brown bark at the base of the trunk. Above this, the bark is shed in strips leaving the branches and the upper length of the trunk smooth-barked. The young leaves are from 6 to 15 cm long and covered with a blue-grey, waxy bloom. This is from where it gets it’s common name ‘blue gum’.
The mature leaves are long, 15 to 35 cms, and narrow, almost ‘sickle’ shaped and turn a deep, glossy green. The flower buds are shaped like a ‘warty’ spinning top, with a flattened operculum, (a covering/lidlike flap), which bears a central knob. When the operculum opens, the cream flowers appear. The flowers produce great amounts of nectar, are pollinated by birds, mammals and insects, and which with the help of our bees produce a strong flavoured honey. The large blue-grey juvenile leaves are often used in floral arrangements, either fresh or dried, and both give out a distinctive eucalyptus fragrance.
Tasmanian Blue Gum provides a hard and durable timber which is used in Australia for telegraph poles, piles and sleepers. This tree has been widely planted in New Zealand, South Africa, South America, California, India and Mediterranean countries, as farm windbreaks, in forestry and in ornamental plantations. It is favoured for qualities such as its speed of growth, straightness of trunk, strength of wood and its adaptability to a range of locations.
Overseas plantations have supplied antiseptic oil, fuel, telegraph poles, mine props and construction timber and also now provide pulpwood for paper making. The Tasmanian Bluegum has also helped to drain the swamps in localities prone to malaria, in central Africa, Italy and Turkey. It was once believed that the leaves of the Blue Gum gave off a magical essence which purified the air of fever germs, but today we know the true benefit is in the loss of suitable breeding sites for mosquitoes, due to the ability of the blue gum to evaporate water from a swampy ground.
Sadly, the Tasmanian Blue Gum, (although our official floral emblem), is rarely used for either official or popular purposes. One wonders if this fact is due to the fact many Tasmanians are unaware that the beautiful Tasmanian Blue Gum IS our official floral emblem.
All photos strictly ©Carol Haberle of H&H Photography. You can follow Carol on Facebook at Haberle Photo Cards. Carol writes feature articles for us about all things Tasmanian. If you’d like Carol to visit you so your place of business can be promoted online, please contact Think Tasmania.