What is it? A comprehensive guide to eucalyptus
Eucalyptus is just as beautiful as it smells.
What is Eucalyptus?
Eucalyptus (sometimes referred to as “gum trees” or “eucalypts”) are trees known for its refreshing scents, prominence in Australian and Californian forests, and presence in floral arrangements.
More accurately, eucalyptus is a genus, or biological classification rank, that encompasses various shrubs and trees. Eucalyptus is a member of the Myrtaceae, or myrtle family, which means that eucalyptus shares ancestry with guava, clove, allspice, and bay rum tree.
What does the name Eucalyptus come from?
Eucalyptus existed for thousands of years, long before members of James Cook’s exploration trip discovered this plant in 1770. However, its name “Eucalyptus” was not given until 1788 after it was brought to the British Museum in London.
This is what a wild eucalyptus forest looks like.
It was then that French Botanist Charles Louis L’Heritert de Brutelle came up with the name by combining two French words “Eu” and “Calyptos,” which means “well” and “covered” respectively. For the next hundred years, scientists collected and studied more species of Eucalyptus.
Where can Eucalyptus be found?
Although its origins are linked to Australia, eucalyptus now grows all over the world. In fact, there are over 900 species of Eucalyptus, which differ by height, bark type, leaf patterns, and geolocation. You can find a comprehensive library online documenting various types of Australian eucalyptus.
What are some characteristics of Eucalyptus?
Eucalyptuses grow quickly, which means eucalyptus can reach full maturity faster than other trees. Mountain Ash, a type of Eucalyptus that can be found in Australia, is the tallest flowering plant in the world and holds the record for the tallest measured living specimen at 327 feet, just slightly taller than London’s Big Ben Tower.
Eucalyptus are evergreens, or green year round. In California, especially, you can still see greenery thanks to eucalyptus. This also means Eucalyptus are hardy plants and can withstand a large range of temperatures and environments.
Finally, Eucalyptuses have distinct leaf formations. Each Eucalyptus leaf grows in pairs on direct opposite sides of the stem. The next consecutive leaves also grows in pairs, but at right-angles with the previous pair, creating a beautiful symmetrical effect. This orderly pattern contributes to why Eucalyptus is a top choice for florists to add to their floral arrangements.
What does Eucalyptus smell like?
Eucalyptus is famous for its relaxing minty aromas, which is commonly used in candles, soaps, cosmetics and lip balms, and aromatherapy. Some people describe the eucalyptus as a refreshing forest scent that have hints of honey.
Eucalyptus have a particularly strong, distinct odor because eucalyptus can retain most of its oil in its leaves, which is also where eucalyptus oil is sourced. If you walk by a handful of eucalyptuses, it will be difficult to miss its powerful woody odor.
What are medicinal properties of Eucalyptus ?
Eucalyptus by American painter Edgar Alwin Payne
For thousands of years, Eucalyptus have been used as medicine across various ancient civilizations from China to Greece. Eucalyptus’ healing properties are captured in traditional Australian and East Asian folklore. Ancient aboriginals utilized eucalyptus to treat skin wounds and infections.
In France during the mid-1800s, a German botanist realized that Eucalyptus had disinfectant properties. He sent Eucalyptus seeds to be grown in a swampy area in France prone to fevers. After a few years, the eucalyptus grew and made this place drier, reducing the mosquito population and saving countless people from the spreading of diseases.
After the end of 19th century, hospitals started using eucalyptus oils to sanitize equipment and more medical findings are finding evidence of antimicrobial properties in eucalyptus. Eucalyptus is also used in dental practices for its antibacterial properties.
Today, Eucalyptus has healing antiseptic properties, which makes it ideal for dealing with colds, stress, sore muscles, flu, and exhaustion, and congestions.
Eucalyptus can be used in home remedies for bronchitis and colds, as eucalyptus oil vapors help serve as a decongestant. Popular cough medications such as Vicks or VapoRub already include eucalyptus oil in its ingredient list.
Is Eucalyptus a natural insect repellent?
Eucalyptus is an excellent repellent for insects and insecticide. It is possible to use a little of eucalyptus to help eliminate house flies, mites, and ticks. Eucalyptus is also a natural mosquito repellant.
Is eucalyptus safe to eat?
A common question that comes up after discussing eucalyptus’ benefits is whether people can eat eucalyptus. The answer is no. Eucalyptus is toxic and poisonous. You should not eat Eucalyptus. Even in the form of eucalyptus oil, it can be used only in aromatherapy only after being diluted water. It is important to keep eucalyptus away from young children and pets.
Why are there so many Eucalyptus trees in California?
Eucalyptus leaves are packed with oil.
In California, due to a mass adoption of Eucalyptus 150 years ago, Eucalyptus is easily recognizable all over the state, in forests and along streets. The particular species of Eucalyptus found in California is called the Tasmanian Blue Gum. Eucalyptus is also nickname as “California’s Adopted Tree” because you can Eucalyptus everywhere in California in large quantities from San Diego to San Francisco.
However, recently with the rise of forest fires, California’s Eucalyptus reputation has shifted as people began analyzing the impact of non-indigenous plants in the environment. Criticisms against Eucalyptus include how Blue Gum trees are flammable and disruptive to native plants and animals. However, defenders of Eucalyptus argue that the hazards associated with Eucalyptus should not be attributed to the plant itself. An interesting article examining this issue surrounding Eucalyptus can be found here.
What is Eucalyptus used for today?
Besides medicinal and cosmetic products, Eucalyptus is commonly found in floral arrangements.
Florists love eucalyptus for its ability to be the perfect filler flowers. Baby Blues are good for creating height and adding structure Seeded eucalyptus are known for leafy texture. Eucalyptus goes well with all types of floral arrangements, such as bouquets, wreaths, floral headbands, and stand-alones.
What is Eucalyptus oil?
Eucalyptus is also commonly used in the form of eucalyptus oil, which can be added to aromatherapy diffusers, steam rooms, or fabrics. The main source of Eucalyptus oil comes from Eucalyptus globulus, or Blue Gum. The oils are extracted using steam distilling. Eucalyptus oil is strong, sweet, and woody scent.
Eucalyptus oil should be diluted before contacting the skin. It is also important to mention that is not safe to take eucalyptus oil orally, as eucalyptus is poisonous if ingested.
Eucalyptus as a floral arrangement
Fresh cut eucalyptus can last for about three weeks in a jar with water.
Eucalyptus has grown in popularity as an indoor floral arrangements. Because of its therapeutic scent, creating eucalyptus floral arrangements help bring refreshing scents into any room. Eucalyptus is not only beautiful, its hardiness also means these plants stay fresh longer after being cut. Freshly cut eucalyptus can last up to three weeks and afterwards, dried to last forever.
Eucalyptus can be used in any room in the house, including the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. It is also possible to tie up a couple branches of eucalyptus and hang the eucalyptus in the car, closet, or other small spaces.
Where to buy Eucalyptus
If you are interested in purchasing eucalyptus, LaRolf offers a variety of eucalyptuses that can be shipped directly to you. All of LaRolf’s Eucalyptus are freshly grown locally in California and hand selected to bring a calming aromatic arrangement into any space.
If you have any other tips or information about eucalyptus, feel free to share it with us. We’d love to see images of how you use eucalyptus in your everyday life.