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about zone 8, or even less, with winter protection). In Tasmania, it reaches heights of 300 feet or more, making it one of the largest trees in the world. Planted in the landscape, it will grow tall and noble—up to 75 feet, and even to 200 feet in ideal conditions. But for those home gardeners wanting to set their sights a little lower, certain nurseries sell a multi-trunked ‘Compacta’ dwarf variety that grows to 30 feet or more.

    Juvenile leaves of the blue gum start oval or oblong in shape, with a delightful silvery-green color. They mature quickly, becoming narrow and glossy. The flowers, flossy white, appear only on mature trees. The blue-gray young bark matures to a mottled gray, green, and brown, with a tinge of blue. Quite thick and shaggy, it furrows near the base of the tree. The bark peels naturally in long strips or ribbons, making noises similar to paper or linen being torn. Several other members of the eucalyptus family share this peeling bark habit, and for this reason they’ve earned the nickname "stringybarks."

    The blue gum prefers full-sun exposure and a soil on the moist side, though it can tolerate a fair degree of drought. When young, the tree needs a sheltered location, particularly out of harsh winter winds. A winter mulch around the root system to a depth of six to eight inches—after the tree has experienced a couple of nights of below-freezing temperatures (which will slow or stop the sap flow)—will be of great benefit to the tree’s survival in colder climes. You should also consider the blue gum for annual bedding schemes. The blue-green foliage makes an attractive contrast to bright pink or red flowers.

Just for the Smell of It. As an added bonus, you won’t be able to resist picking a leaf of your blue gum now and then and rubbing it between your fingers to rel-

Cold and Flu Fighter

Many of our familiar cough drops and throat lozenges contain oil from the leaves of the Tasmanian blue gum. With its powerful antiseptic qualities, this species helps fight infections in cases of wounds and burns. The oil also acts as an antiseptic bath additive or, heated, as a vapor bath for asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

    Sinus congestion and catarrhal conditions associated with colds respond well to the Tasmanian blue gum. Simply bring a pot full of water to boil and add dried (preferable) or fresh leaves. (Skip the eucalyptus oil, since it tends to dissipate too quickly.) Turn off the heat, hold a towel over your head to prevent the steam from escaping, and lean over to inhale the vapors for up to ten minutes. Follow up with two or three raw garlic cloves to clear any chest congestion—ideally with some unbuttered bread to make the garlic a little easier to digest. Then breathe easy!

(Note: Avoid taking eucalyptus internally as an expectorant without the guidance of a qualified herbal practitioner. While it can treat fevers and throat and lung conditions, in large doses it can also cause indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney irritation.)

Issue No 96 
Fall 2003 
page 22 

 

Cold and Flu Fighter
Many of our familiar cough drops and throat lozenges contain oil from the leaves of the Tasmanian blue gum

Considering that most eucalyptus trees attain such incredibly lofty heights in their native homes, it comes as a surprise that they make great container plants, too.

As for their economic value, eucalypti have more than proven themselves. In addition to perfume and medicine, they provide timber, paper pulp, firewood, ornament, shelter, and tannins.

One fascinating feature of eucalyptus trees: The juvenile leaves are usually completely different in size, shape, arrangement, and even color from those of a mature tree. This attractive young foliage makes excellent material for floral arrangements.