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Rainbow gums

By Jasmine, 18 September 2012 News

Rainbow eucalyptus

Image: Thinkstock

Written by Sarah Kellett

That’s not paint: this is how the rainbow gum, Eucalyptus deglupta, really looks. Sweeping down the trunks of these trees are streaks of red, green and purple.

As rainbow gums grow, they shed strips of old bark. The new bark underneath is bright green, and the bark changes colour as it gets older. After being red and purple, it becomes brown and is ready to be shed once more.

Not all trees shed their bark as they grow. Ironbarks, which are also in the Eucalyptus family, keep their bark on the outside of the tree. So do oaks.

It is not just funky colour that makes the rainbow gum unusual. “It’s one of four Eucalyptus species that don’t grow in Australia,” says Frank Udovicic, from the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.

“It’s a very tropical species,” he says. “We have samples from across the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.”

The wood of rainbow gums is important to people in these countries for building things and making paper.

“Despite its importance, we don’t know how it fits into the family tree of Eucalyptus,” he says.

Frank hopes to find out how this brightly coloured gum tree is related to other Eucalyptus species, and how it once spread across the islands.

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11 comments

  1. WOW – I’m so excited to see information about this tree here. I’ve just come back home to Australia from a holiday in Micronesia where I saw some of these trees on the island of Kosrae. They are magnificent – colourful like Snow Gums but tall and straight. I was wondering why I’d never seen one in Australia; now I know!

    I was told by a guy from the local conservation organisation on Kosrae that the ‘rainbow trees’ had been introduced there by some Australians for some reason, but couldn’t find out any more information. They have become a bit of a local icon though – photos of a Rainbow Gum were featured on the front cover of the main tourist brochure/map of the island.

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  2. Hi Sarah, do you know where I can buy plants or seeds?

    Trish

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    1. I’ve been trying to find a source for you based on a lead from Sarah, but I’m not having much luck! I’ll let you know if I hear anything.

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  3. Hi, I have seed and plants for sale here in Australia – contact me at rainboweucalypt@optusnet.com.au

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    1. Hi Julie, I would like to buy a few trees from you if you think they will thrive in the Rockhampton area in Qld.

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      1. Hi. Yes please email me at rainboweucalypt@optusnet.com.au

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  4. Hi Julie my husband is really interested in buying some seeds off you. He is in the progress of writing you an email, he is typing with one finger, lol so it could take while Cheers Kylie Powell

    [Edited by Jas]

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  5. I would love to buy some of these eucalyptus deglupta rainbow gums. Can I get them from you or where can I get them.

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    1. Email me Steve at rainboweucalypt@optusnet.com.au

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  6. Do you think they would grow in the Mildura area of Victoria,its probably warm enough but unless they are well watered it tends towards very dry.

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  7. Do you think People fall in love with rainbow eucalyptus the first time they see it. Intense color and astringent fragrance make the tree unforgettable, but it’s not for everyone. Here are a few things you should know before you rush out to buy one of these outstanding beauties.

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