By Betty Beeman
Eucalyptus was brought to America in the mid 1800s from Australia. Approximately 900 species of eucalyptus trees exist.
These quick-growing trees have been cultivated around the world for their attractive peeling bark and fragrant foliage. Sizes range from short bushy varieties (maliee types) to soaring giants. They are heat- and frost-tolerant, use little water and generally live from 50 to over 100 years.
They all share the pungent aroma for which their leaves are famous, as well as exfoliating bark. The oil that comes from the eucalyptus is used as an antiseptic, as an ingredient in cosmetics, as a flavoring in dental preparations and in industrial solvents.
Eucalyptus trees are evergreen and common throughout Southern Arizona. There are many varieties available but not all make good trees for home yards because of their growth habits or size.
Some eucalyptus trees worth consideration are:
Eucalptus microtheca or Coolibah tree, grows at a moderate rate, up to 35 feet tall and spreads to about the same width. It has 8-inch, silvery gray leaves with a smooth gray bark. This tree can develop iron deficiency but is described as a “nice, quiet, graceful, open-canopied tree.”
Time to get a jump on growing tomatoes and peppers by starting them inside in peat pots or small pots for growing seedling. Use a mix of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 coarse vermiculate and 1/3 compost. Place in warm spot until germination occurs then move to full sun or under grow lights. Mist daily for 7-10 days, then when you see sprouts, water less often. When plants have grown 6 inches or so, and there is no danger of frost, it’s time to plant outdoors.
E. sideroxylon or Red Ironbark is a medium tree ranging from 20 to 80 feet, has red to pinkish colored flowers, ribbon like blue green leaves and dark colored thick-furrowed bark.
The Coral Gum or E. torquata grows to about 20 feet tall and about as wide. It has a slender trunk and grows at a moderate rate. This tree is pretty much free of problems.
E. papuana also called the Ghost Gum is another good choice for our warm temperatures. Some forms have more than one trunk. It is a tall tree growing up to 60 feet, but in our area it is usually much shorter. Its spread is about 15 to 30 feet wide. The leaves are 3-5 inches long, colored a leathery gray to green.
Eucalyptus trees are biologically remarkable. Oil extracted from leaves and gum produced by the trees contains compounds that are powerful natural insect repellants, protecting the trees from insect damage.
Betty Beeman is a Maricopa resident and Pinal County Master Gardener.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Yearly plant sale at the Maricopa Agricultural Center, March 4, 8 a.m.-noon. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, herbs, shrubs, trees and more will be available for purchase. Rick Gibson, Pinal County University of Arizona Extension Agent, has several gardening videos on YouTube. Check these out.