10 January 2013

Eucalyptus eremophila subsp. eremophila - Sand Mallee

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Eucalyptus eremophila subsp. eremophila - Sand Mallee

Eucalyptus eremophila is a highly ornamental eucalypt with large clusters of cream/yellow, or occasionally pink and even bright red flowers, the latter two much rarer and even in districts where reasonably common are scattered widely and number less than one in a thousand trees. However the flowers are large and bright and can be easily seen from a slow moving vehicle.

This species is very common to the North, NW and West of Esperance, extending to the Ravensthorpe district before heading NW to the Geraldton region and then east to Kalgoorlie, Zanthus and Balladonia, so generally has a somewhat remote distribution. Although called a Sand Mallee (mallee = multiple trunks), it can also grow as a single trunk tree, but this is usually where bushfires have not been sufficiently hot to kill the trunk and so stimulate a multi-trunked regrowth from the protected underground lignotuber.

The tree form can be quite sturdy growing to around 8 metres (26’) in height with an attractive smooth silver/pink or coppery trunk with spreading branches that provide a cooling dappled shade. The multi-trunked (most common) mallee form is usually much shorter with less branching trunks, but they fan out to also produce a canopy with pleasant dappled shade.

Eucalypts can be very tricky to identify as they often vary over their range, making comparisons with photographs taken elsewhere, quite confusing. Eucalyptus eremophila subsp. eremophila is the only subspecies in the Esperance district; the other being subsp. pterocarpa that is restricted to the Hyden region and much rarer. Basically, Eucalyptus eremophila subsp. eremophila has 7-9 clustered flowers on a (mostly) down-curved flat peduncle (stalk). The operculum (cap covering stamens) is commonly long and horn-shaped, but can also be rounded at the base.

Another important identification feature is the buds, which are generally between 2.5 and 4 cm (1"-1.5") in length. Eucalyptus eremophila subsp. eremophila prefers a well-drained sandy loam, but often overlying granite, gravel, clay or limestone. Average rainfall is mostly between 20-40 cm (8”-16”) per annum, which compliments its species name of ‘eremophila’ meaning desert loving.

The genus Eucalyptus belongs to the large and diverse Myrtaceae family.