Plant Collector: Corymbia ficifolia

Techically Corymbia ficifolia but more commonly known as the flowering gum

Techically Corymbia ficifolia but more commonly known as the flowering gum

When is a gum tree not a eucalyptus? When it is a flowering gum, apparently. This came as something of a surprise to us. It is no longer Eucalyptus ficifolia but is now named Corymbia ficifolia. It is still a very close relative and will likely continue to be referred to in the grouping of eucalypts or gums. The vast majority of eucalypts are Australian. This one hails from a small area a relatively long way to the south east of Perth. While its natural habitat means it is accustomed to poor, sandy soils it has proven both popular and reliable as a street tree internationally – anywhere which is not consistently humid or suffering from extreme frosts. This specimen is just on the end of one of our shelter belts and remains relatively anonymous until it suddenly bursts into glorious bloom.

As it is notoriously difficult to root from cutting or to graft, flowering gums are almost always produced from seed which means there will be variation. They take several years to flower and it is pot luck what colour they will be. While orange and red shades are the most common, they can also be close to white and the full gamut of pinks. They are rated as small trees, taking a long time to get much past 3 or 4 metres tall. As trees go, these are a pretty easy-care variety and are available for sale in NZ.

According to Wikipedia, Hamilton’s very own Princes Street boasts the largest known single-trunked specimen of Corymbia ficifolia in the world. I could not see it on Google street view so I wonder if it is still there. Did somebody fell the world’s biggest?

Postscript: My Waikato Times features editor sent out a photographer, armed with my photo, and I am delighted to report that the world’s largest, single-trunked specimen is still present and correct.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

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