Plant Profile – Spotted Gum – Corymbia citriodora subsp. variegata

Also known as:

  • Eucalyptus maculata (historical, no longer used by herbariums for this species)
  • Corymbia maculata (historical, no longer used by herbariums for this species)
  • Eucalyptus citriodora (historical, no longer used by herbariums for this species)
The creamy white blossoms are an abundant source of nectar.

Growing conditions:

  • Prefers well-draining soils
  • Like growing on slopes
  • Prefers full sun
  • Drought tolerant

Propagation:

  • Seeds in shallow trays kept moist until germination

These towering majesties, which grow up to 45 metres, are a substantial part of the landscape along the East coast of Australia from Rockhampton south to Coffs Harbour. Like many in the Myrtle family they are difficult to identify without measuring leaves and examining flowers. Most of the trees we call Spotted Gums in the area are Corymbia citriodora subsp. variegata. Unlike other species labelled citriodora, these ones are identified by their lack of lemon scent.

Spotted Gums generally have straight, tall trunks.

Important for Koalas and other native species

They are an important tree for Koalas, functioning as shelter and a secondary food source. This means that they are not a preferred food source but form an important part of the diet, especially as larger primary food source trees are harder to find.

They also provide food and shelter for gliders, possums and fruit bats, not to mention the birds that feast on the nectar and build nests in their branches. It is also important for beekeepers as it flowers abundantly many times during the year.

The sound of the fruit bats during flowering season is impossible to miss with loud screeching and the flapping of leathery wings against the silent night air.

The quiet Greater Glider is easier to miss. The only one that I have seen I caught by accident in the glare of the torch. It sat still and watched me before slowly continuing to munch its nectar filled snack.

When the bark sheds, beautiful colours are revealed. 

Valuable hardwood

These termite resistant trees have brown or red heartwood and white sapwood with a natural greasiness that makes it respond well to machining. It is used for anything from bridges and wharves to cladding and tool handles to furniture and boats.

Outdoor furniture made from this wood has consistently won domestic and international awards, which is not surprising when you consider its lovely grain and ready acceptance of paint, stain and polish.

A cicada uses the thick, shedding bark to emerge from its shell.

A War with Vines

In Spring, our landscape is structured by tall straight trunks in many hues from salmon pink to green, as Spotted Gums shed their bark. We have one in our yard which has a deep green trunk that shines and sparkles like a dark emerald if it gets wet. Others are dark grey or a shade of pink. The variety is amazing. I speculate that it must have something to do with moisture levels or minerals in the soil or a mixture of both.

This shedding isn’t just about growth, it’s also a defence against the encroaching rainforest in marginal habitats. As the vines try to climb up to the canopy, threatening to strangle their strong trunks and invade their foliage, the Spotted Gum sheds the very surface that they cling to. As an added line of defence the bark that litters the forest floor is highly flammable while the trees themselves are fire resistant.

Shedding right before fire season, means that the vines are threatened by bark fuelled fires while the Spotted Gums stand victorious, protected from all but the most ferocious infernos.

When the bark is shedding, the new trunk glistens after rain.

Wishing you majestic views,

Jane Grows Garden Rooms

References:

North Eden Timber: Timber Profile-Spotted Gum

EUCLID: Corymbia citriodora

City of Ipswich: Koala Friendly Planting Guide

3 thoughts on “Plant Profile – Spotted Gum – Corymbia citriodora subsp. variegata

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