In The Natural Interest
The Unexpected Spotted Gums
by Greg Stone
It's not unusual for some Australian plants to turn up
in quite unexpected places - and it's this characteristic that
sometimes makes life a little more exciting for those of us with
an interest in native flora. Take Spotted Gum as an example. If
you have ever travelled along the eastern coast of N.S.W., then
you would certainly have seen Spotted Gums.
These trees are easily recognisable by their
characteristic tall, straight trunk and smooth, mottled bark.
This 'mottling' is created by the shedding of irregular flakes of
older, weathered, dark grey bark and exposing the new lighter
coloured bark underneath.
Between May and September in a good
year, the crowns of Spotted Gums can be covered with flowers,
creating a great deal of interest for bees which produce the
commonly available Spotted Gum honey.
New name - same tree
From 1844 until recently Spotted Gum was known as Eucalyptus
maculata, but after years of discussion and argument
botanists finally agreed to change the name to Corymbia
maculata. Along with a few other closely related trees in
the Bloodwood group, Spotted Gum was separated from the Eucalypts
and put into their own genus.
So what does the name mean?
Corymbia refers to a
particular arrangement of flowers shared by Spotted Gum and its
relatives. A 'corymbose' structure is one in which the lower
flowers have longer stems than the upper, thus tending to bring
all the flowers to the same level. The species name maculata
means 'spotted' or 'blotched', which is an obvious reference to
the tree's distinctive trunk.
Spotted Gums at Wingello
Spotted Gum forests are very much a part of the natural
landscape of our eastern coast and as one writer expressed...
'the combination of clean, mottled trunk with bark shed to ground
level and the presence of only low ground vegetation...makes good
spotted gum stands some of the most scenically attractive forests
in eastern Australia.'
If you live in the Highlands, you don't need to
wind your way down to the coast to enjoy a Spotted Gum forest,
because there is one not far from Wingello. If you can get hold
of a WINGELLO 8928-IV-S topographic map (available from
the Wingello store for only $8.50), you can find the
appropriately-named Spotted Gum Road at grid reference
427532. The forestry roads on the way out there are usually
trafficable in good weather, but you will have to park your
vehicle at the locked gate at the top of Spotted Gum Road and
walk from there.
After a short walk passing through some typical
Hawkesbury Sandstone vegetation with its dense understorey and
grey-trunked Stringybarks and Peppermints, a
Spotted Gum forest suddenly appears at the head of a small
gully on the left hand side - you can't miss it!
Wander down amongst the trees a little
way and enjoy the beautiful light created by reflections from the
clear trunks, the shiny leaves on the ground and the sparse
understorey. It's worth taking a look at these 'unexpected'
visitors up from the South Coast.
C/- P. O. Wingello
Wingello N.S.W. 2579