6 surprising facts about eucalypts
Here at Bosisto's, we think eucalypts are amazing. And on National Eucalypt Day - 23 March - Australians everywhere will have a chance to honour them, too.
There is nothing more iconic, and no smell more evocative of "home" than that fresh, crisp scent of the Australian bush. But here are some things you may not know about Australia's most famous native tree, and our deep connection with them here at Bosisto's.
1. Eucalypts are truly unique.
There's no other tree species in the world, for example, that can produce timber, paper, essential oil and even honey!
They are also some of the hardiest trees on the planet, able to biologically adapt to drought conditions, pest infestations, and regrow after fire.
You might think of tall, towering gums when you think of eucalypts. This can be true - in fact the tallest flowering tree in the world is a eucalypt. The Mountain Ash (also known as the 'Centurion') stands over 99 meters in Tasmania.
But the trees which produce Bosisto's Eucalyptus Essential Oil are a much shorter cousin. More like a shrub, they rarely grow taller than about chest height, and, unlike other harvesting industries where deforestation is an issue, our blue mallee eucalypts are a renewable resource. Each two years their leaves are harvested to distill the oil, after which they grow back stronger than ever. In fact, we've been harvesting some of the same trees in our plantations for over 100 years!
2. Eucalypts have a special significance to the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.
It was a small world in Melbourne, in the 1850's. Two friends and scientific minds had a singular fascination with Australia's beautiful native 'gum' trees. They were Joseph Bosisto - the man who bottled Australia's first eucalyptus oil - and the first Director of Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens, government botanist Baron Ferdinand Von Mueller.
Von Mueller recognised the value of eucalypts and the liquid gold found inside their leaves, and encouraged Bosisto to distill eucalyptus oil on a commercial scale. The result is a brand which still flourishes today, over 164 years on.
The friendship between Bosisto's and the Royal Botanic Gardens also lives on, with Bosisto's contributing Euca Mulch to Cranbourne's Australian Garden - a unique and immersive display of Australian native flora, landscapes, art and culture. Euca Mulch is another 'sustainable' by-product of the renewable process of eucalyptus oil distillation, where nothing is wasted. Spent leaves may be stripped of their oil, but they still have great nutritive value to the soil (and a wonderful aroma). What comes from the earth, returned to the earth.
3. There's a new eucalypt on the block.
Back in the year 2000 Bosisto's recognised the need to expand eucalyptus supply locally and started investigating the development of a eucalypt species which would yeild more oil from its leaves. With the help of the botany department at Melbourne University, this dream has eventually become a reality, with millions of these 'super trees' being planted so far. Find out more about this amazing agricultural project in Landline's segment below, or click here.
4. Eucalypts are so amazing, they have their own museum.
It may not be quite in the oddball league of New Mexico's UFO museum, Norway's homage to glass bottles or New Dehli's Toilet museum, but the Eucalyptus Museum in Inglewood, Victoria is certainly one of a kind.
Inglewood, Wedderburn and surrounding regions in North West Victoria are famous for producing eucalyptus oil, and the Blue Eucy Distillery Centre & Museum is the area's love song to its leafy heritage.
It features displays, photographs and story boards of the industry and its history, as well as artefacts, videos, static and interactive displays. See oil being distilled, or crush and smell different varieties of leaves. The centre runs craft-making workshops and a cafe and shop on site sells eucalyptus products, locally handmade souveniers and gifts. It's certainly one to tick off the "bucket list" if you're ever in the region!
5. Here's why eucalypts are often called "gums"
"Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree.... Merry merry king of the bush is he.."
Most Australians have grown up calling eucalypts 'gum trees' without really knowing why.
The term "gum tree" was first used by Captain James Cook in his journal in 1770. Eucalyptus trees began to be colloquially known by the name because early settlers noted that some species of trees would exude a sticky gum-like substance. Aborigines used this gum to fasten barbs to the end of spears and fishing sticks.
6. The beauty of the Eucalypt is being celebrated in an exhibition
If you're in Melbourne 30th March - 3rd April and you're a fan of nature, gardening or eucalypts, there's a double treat in store for you.
The Royal Society of Victoria (LaTrobe Street) is holding an Interacting with Eucalypts exhibition and display, featuring amazing photos from the National Geographic... and, it's right across the road from the Melbourne International Garden Show. Get your green thumb fix all in one wonderful weekend.