Eucalyptus for the Habitat Garden?

Eucalyptus are one of the dominant groups of native plants on our Australian continent and as a result are incredibly important to wildlife. Eucalyptus are so important that in fact, every part of the tree is utilised by native animals and other plants. From the soil level, the roots provide habitat to countless organisms including fungi who themselves in turn may play host to terrestrial orchids such that of the Dipodium genus.

Dipodium orchids depend on a fungal relationship to survive. The Dipodiums fungi host depends on Eucalyptus roots systems. No Eucalyptus means no fungus or orchid. The Orchids are seasonal and not seen until the right conditions occur (temp/rain). To our knowledge Dipodium has not entered cultivation due to the complexity of its relationship with the eucalyptus and fungi host. 

 

Above the soil moving up the trunk of the eucalyptus, it's basically like the surface of a living planet. Depending on the species of Eucalyptus each has its own suite of residents adapted to their type of Eucalyptus trunk. There are organisms specific to rough iron barks/stringy barks or smooth spotted trunks! On one mature Eucalyptus fibrosa we have recorded native bees nesting, jumping spiders, beetles and even fence skinks. Moving further up to the leafy branches and things are different again. The leaves are full of insects that feed on the leaves and in turn attracting their own predators including insect eating birds like Pardalotes.

 

3 species of Ladybird beetles and a lacewing on spotted gum Eucalyptus (Corymbia maculata). Farms actually pay for these bio-controls, but why pay for these benefits when you can attract them with your own Eucalyptus?
 

At flowering time things get wild with an influx of many pollinating visitors in tune with when their local provenance Eucalyptus should be flowering. Native bees, beetles, butterflies and nectar feeding birds are all attracted to the blooms lapping up nectar from flowering branch to flowering branch. 

Spotted Pardalotes spend majority of time looking for scale-like insects amongst the gum leaves.

 

Now as good as all this sounds for our wildlife how do you fit a 40m Eucalytpus tree in an urban garden?  We have been trialing a solution.

What if you could keep a eucalyptus tree that grows 40m high to a height of just 2 metres? Turns out it is possible and we have trained ours to be that height for 10 years and counting. Depending on the species it would require potentially pruning the leader growth every quarter but the local wildlife will thank you for it!

Don't throw away the leaves or branches cut! The wood can be used depending on how tall you let the leader growth get and the leaves do wonders to the soil. Of course pruning the eucs to 2 metres frequently may prevent some species from flowering at least for the first couple of years and yet their benefits to local insects and birds are still worthwhile for wildlife. 

Eucalyptus tereticornis tube stock from a provenance in South Western Sydney 

So how to start training your euc? Buying tube stock of local provenance to your location would be a good start with hidden benefits of preserving your areas unique biodiversity. Dig out a hole & plant the young Eucalyptus. Once you are happy with the height reached simply cut the leader. We save and reuse as much organic matter as possible and like to bury the leaves which in turn provides food for native insects,worms and don't forget the hungry beneficial fungi. 

The benefits of having local provenance Eucalyptus as part of your habbitat garden cannot be stated enough.

Imagine if everyone did this

Happy Growing!