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9 Oct 2018

Kids connect with an Aussie icon

Apart from National Eucalyptus Day, there aren’t many opportunities to talk about the humble gum. How many species of Eucalyptus trees there are? Why are they called gum trees? How did Aboriginal people use Eucalyptus trees? Where does the word Eucalyptus come from?

Over the last few months Youth Community Greening and Eucalypt Australia have joined forces to inspire young people across Sydney to learn more about the wonderful world of  Eucalypts. Over the last few months this initiative has reached over 400 students in eight lucky schools - planting more than 50 Eucalypts with many more to follow.

The kids don't just learn about the fascinating past of the plants including the evolution and adaptations - but also their importance in the Australian landscape and how plants were traditionally used, particularly the uses of Eucalypts for tools, weapons and medicine. 

Connecting with an Aussie Icon

Did you know that there are over 800 species of Eucalypts found across Australia in all different climates, regions and ecosystems? In the south eastern regions grows the Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans), which is the tallest flowering plant in the world.

Eucalypts are called gum trees because of the gum (kino) which exudes from any break in the bark and the bark can vary from the deeply fissured iron barks to stringy barks and smooth barks. The name Eucalyptus comes from the Greek words eu-, well, and kaluptos, cover, meaning “well-covered”, describing the woody fruit protecting the seeds.

Versatile vegetation

Different Eucalyptus species traditionally had different uses throughout the various regions of Australia. Throughout the Murray-Darling basin canoes were made from the River Red Gums, but in other regions stringybarks were used. Eucalypts were also used to make boomerangs, shields, didgeridoos, coolamons and shelters. Numerous medicines were obtained from different parts of the tree and the oils from Eucalypts are still widely used for respiratory ailments.

Gondwana giants

Eucalypts dominate the Australian landscape, but how much do we really know about them. There is fossil evidence of Eucalypts dating back 45 million years and pollen deposits from over 34 million years ago. It’s important that we understand the significance that Eucalypts have in our history and culture and the Youth Community Greening program is enjoying inspiring an appreciation of this iconic group of species.

To find out more about Youth Community Greening you can follow the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney on Twitter or visit our website here.

Did you know?  The oldest known examples of eucalypt fossils are 52 million-year-old flowers, fruits and leaves found in Patagonia.

Category: Arboriculture
Tags: Eucalypts
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