Eucalyptus /ˌjuːkəˈlɪptəs/ is a genus of over seven hundred species of flowering trees, shrubs or mallees in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. Along with other genera in the tribe Eucalypteae, they are commonly known as eucalypts. Plants in the genus Eucalyptus have bark that is either smooth, fibrous, hard or stringy, leaves with oil glands, and sepals and petals that are fused to form a "cap" or operculum over the stamens. The fruit is a woody capsule commonly referred to as a "gumnut".

Most species of Eucalyptus are native to Australia, and every state and territory has representative species. About three-quarters of Australian forests are eucalypt forests. Wildfire is a feature of the Australian landscape and many eucalypt species are adapted to fire, and resprout after fire or have seeds that survive fire.

A few species are native to islands north of Australia and a smaller number are only found outside the continent. Eucalypts have been grown in plantations in many other countries because they are fast-growing and have valuable timber, or can be used for pulpwood, for honey production or essential oils. In some countries, however, they have been removed because they are highly flammable.

Observations Map

Eucalypts vary in size and habit from shrubs to tall trees. Trees usually have a single main stem or trunk but many eucalypts are mallees that are multistemmed from ground level and rarely taller than 10 meters (33 ft). There is no clear distinction between a mallee and a shrub but in eucalypts, a shrub is a mature plant less than 1 meter (3 ft) tall and growing in an extreme environment.

All eucalypts add a layer of bark every year and the outermost layer dies. In about half of the species, the dead bark is shed exposing a new layer of fresh, living bark. The dead bark may be shed in large slabs, in ribbons, or in small flakes. These species are known as "smooth barks" and include E. sheathiana, E. diversicolor, E. cosmophylla and E. cladocalyx. The remaining species retain the dead bark which dries out and accumulates. In some of these species, the fibers in the bark are loosely intertwined (in stringybarks such as E. macrorhyncha or peppermints such as E. radiata) or more tightly adherent (as in the "boxes" such as E. leptophleba). In some species (the "ironbarks" such as E. crebra and E. jensenii) the rough bark is infused with gum resin.

Nearly all eucalyptus are evergreen, but some tropical species lose their leaves at the end of the dry season. As in other members of the myrtle family, eucalyptus leaves are covered with oil glands. The copious oils produced are an important feature of the genus. Although mature eucalyptus trees may be towering and fully leafed, their shade is characteristically patchy because the leaves usually hang downwards.

The leaves on a mature eucalyptus plant are commonly lanceolate, petiolate, apparently alternate, and waxy or glossy green. In contrast, the leaves of seedlings are often opposite, sessile, and glaucous, but many exceptions to this pattern exist.

The most readily recognizable characteristics of eucalyptus species are the distinctive flowers and fruit (capsules or "gumnuts"). Flowers have numerous fluffy stamens which may be white, cream, yellow, pink, or red; in bud, the stamens are enclosed in a cap known as an operculum which is composed of the fused sepals or petals, or both. Thus, flowers have no petals, but instead, decorate themselves with the many showy stamens. As the stamens expand, the operculum is forced off, splitting away from the cup-like base of the flower; this is one of the features that unites the genus. The woody fruits or capsules are roughly cone-shaped and have valves at the end which open to release the seeds, which are waxy, rod-shaped, about 1 mm in length, and yellow-brown in color. Most species do not flower until adult foliage starts to appear

Eucalyptus oil is highly flammable; ignited trees have been known to explode. Bushfires can travel easily through the oil-rich air of the tree crowns. Eucalypts obtain long-term fire survivability from their ability to regenerate from epicormic buds situated deep within their thick bark, or from lignotubers, or by producing serotinous fruits.

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