Leaf of the Day: Lemon Eucalyptus

I seldom see the overflow car park used at Leu but today the post Christmas crowds were out in force. I think more because it was a free morning and “something to do with the kids”, than a sudden great outpouring of interest and affection for the natural world, but it was the perfect morning for a garden walk. Many people are here on holiday from the frozen north and they look in wonder at the citrus trees hanging with fruit, the giant pummelos, the beautiful butterflies, the roses and the just opening camellias.
I went to look specifically at more of the Australian plants and to find out exactly which eucalyptus the beautiful white trunks belonged to. They are Lemon Eucalyptus Eucalyptus citriodora.

3 Lemon Eucalyptus at Leu Gardens

They are beautiful immensely tall trees with all the branches clustered at the crown so no chance of taking a leaf without shinning up 50 ft or more. However there were some old fallen branches and after ferreting around in all the debris at the foot of the trees I found a cluster of the little urn shaped seed pods. They are much much smaller than the big bloodwood pods from last week and of course the leaves from this mature trees are the characteristic elongated shape. When not old and twisted and broken like the ones I have drawn the leaves are a beautiful sickle shape.
The white trunks have bark so snug fitting it looks like tight skin, wrinkled at the joints and there are several strange pock marks above the branch scars. I have no idea what they are.

The lemon scented oil from the leaves is steam distilled and used as an insect repellent although I didn’t particularly notice a lack of mosquitoes around the trees. It will have small white spidery flowers in panicles.

Here are a few words about the Lemon Eucalyptus from Stanford University’s online “Encyclopedia of Trees, Shrubs and Vines”. More here

The tall trunk, with no branches at all up to a substantial height, leaves a detectable record of bygone branches in the form of dimples and pimples on the otherwise smooth trunk. As a branch becomes shaded from sunlight as a result of growth in height, abscissic acid (a plant hormone), causes a brittle zone to form at the trunk. Wind then breaks the branch off cleanly. Research on abscissic acid has received military support aimed at defoliating forests. ( hmmm!)
Gum tree leaves vary a lot in smell when you crush and sniff them because the mix of oils varies from one species to the next, but with the lemon-scented gum the oil is virtually pure citronellal, known as a germicide and mosquito repellent, but with a marvelous aroma for humans. Occasional juvenile leaves can be found near ground level that have a visibly rough undersurface made up of tiny projections containing lemon oil. After you feel the sandpaper-like texture, smell your fingers! Onlookers are astonished by the fragrance; you can put these leaves in your gin and tonic!
(that’s better!)

The drawing is of some tatty dried leaves with small bit of twig stuck onto one leaf and some old gumnuts. Sadly these old leaves neither smell of lemon nor are they suitable for my sparkling glass of G & T.

For much more Euclyptus info do visit Gustavo’s excellent site Eucalyptologics

Lemon Eucalyptus and Pods

Leaf of the Day: Red Box Eucalyptus

This is another of the Australian trees from Leu, the Red Box Tree Eucalyptus polyanthemos. It is growing companionably next to the Bloodwood and near another expat, the pretty lacy leaved Silky Oak, which is not an oak at all but a Grevillea robusta.
There are several other big Eucalyptus trees which tower above many of the locals. You have to either look skywards to see them or you might notice their sensuous smooth white trunks, so touchable and so beautiful. I am not sure of their particular variety.

Red Box Eucalyptus

This Red Box Eucalyptus is a small tree, or rather I should say, a young tree, as it still has its juvenile foliage the pretty fluttering grey green leaves which earn it the name Silver Dollar Gum. These disc shaped leaves with a notch in the top, some looking like little hearts, will give way to the longer slimmer mature leaves. I am not sure I know of any other species of tree where there is such a marked difference in young and mature foliage. The eucalypts are another very ancient species along with the cycads and the ginkgos, tracing their ancestry back some 35 million years.

It’s late in the afternoon when I am drawing and my main drawing light is casting long shadows, which I liked, so that’s just how I drew this little sprig of eucalyptus leaves and, unlike yesterday’s pods, these really do have that wonderful aromatic scent. I once picked up a few fallen eucalyptus pods and leaves in Portugal and kept them in a small box. Opening this box several years later released not only that heady smell but also the memory of some hot painting days in Portugal. I remember the old ruined house, the donkey, the enigmatic ancient handprint in old plaster, the exact spot I picked them up, the friends, the heat….. and more and more. All that in 2 leaves and a pod. Now, every time I smell eucalyptus that’s where I go.

**For much more info about the eucalyptus, do visit Gustavo Iglesias’ excellent site Eucalptologics

Red Box Eucalyptus

Leaf of the Day: Boxing Day Bloodwood Gumnuts

Early on a sunny Boxing day morning all was quiet at the Gardens. There is only one day in the whole year that you cannot visit Leu Gardens and that is Christmas Day. For an hour I had the place to myself and with no plan, just walked amongst my now familiar friends, a time to reflect on almost one year of the blog and plan for the next. There have to be some changes, some developments but quite what, I am not sure. The best aid to thinking, for me, is to get on and do something else, so while mulling over my artistic endeavours I took a slightly different path from normal and came across a couple of new trees, and, to my great delight, a new pod.

I could see this tree had had flowers but way up high, much higher than my normal sight line, and not many of them judging by the number of pods, but when I saw the pictures of these wonderfully strange flower heads I was cross with myself for missing them.

Image and more info from Euclid, Australian Eucalypts website. here

This is the Australian Bloodwood, Corymbia ptychocarpa, from the Greek, ptychos, a fold or cleft and carpos, fruit referring to the ribbed buds and fruit. “Bloodwoods” are so called because of the dark red liquid exuded from a wounded trunk. There are 99 species of Corymbias which include the Red and Yellow Bloodwoods,the Ghost Gums and Spotted Gums. All are members of the Eucalypts and I had thought the pods of this one might have that wonderful eucalyptus scent but it seems not, and neither do the big glossy leaves.

These handsome trees are common in northern and western Australia and seem to grow quite happily in the southern USA too. There are quite a few Australian species at Leu, most promising wonderfully exotic flowers that I have yet to see. I am sad to say the Silky Hakea is not recovering..however, I do have 3 little seedling which are clinging onto life.

With half my mind on future plans, this a slightly absent minded drawing of three bloodwood pods, usually known as gumnuts, and a leaf. On one of the pods I could see the tantalising remains of the flower. The leaf is a lovely pale green with a central red vein and stem.

*** UPDATE JUNE 2009: Thanks to Gustavo at Eucalyptologics for the link and the drawings looks great on your site!!.. This is THE site for everything eucalyptus. see also comment below.

Swamp Bloodwood Pods and Leaf