Tree of the moment: Eucalyptus caesia

Strolling through the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne last month and spotted this  beauty with its scarlet flowers and white bark and looking especially striking against the blue sky.

The flowers of Eucalyptus caesia. Photo: Sandra Simpson

An entry on the Gardens website recommends this tree for home gardens and says: There are two distinct growth forms which have been previously described and sold as E. caesia subsp. caesia, which is a small tree, growing from 6-9m tall, and the other is E. caesia subsp. magna (also sold in nurseries as ‘Silver Princess’), which may grow up to 12m tall, with narrow wispy stems and long weeping side branches.

In both forms, the large rich pink or reddish flowers occur in drooping bunches in autumn and winter. The new shoots and leaves start reddish in colour then, like the flower buds and fruit, develop a grey waxy coating which adds a ghostly appearance to this very attractive species. The bark of mature trees is minni-ritchi type, rolling and peeling off in slender ribbons, adding further character to the tree.

 It prefers well drained soils and full sun, and is very drought tolerant once established. The leaves may get fungal leaf spot during damp winters or if there is poor air movement around the plant. The trees can be coppiced to ground level to encourage new stems.

The silvery-white trunk and gumnuts. Photo: Sandra Simpson

I shouted myself a beautiful, large book – Eucalypts, a Celebration by John Wrigley and Murray Fagg (Allen & Unwin, 2012) which says:

“This species is probably the best known of the small ornamental eucalypts in cultivation. In nature it is rare, always associated with granite outcrops in the eastern wheatbelt of Western Australia … The silvery-grey branches are pendulous and often weighed down in late winter and spring by the large pink flowers and urn-shaped gumnuts. A subspecies (subsp. magna), often sold as ‘Silver Princess’, has larger flowers and fruits, with the pendulous branches often touching the ground. Both subspecies thrive in well-drained soil on sunny sites in areas of winter rainfall.”

This eucalyptus is of the mallee type, which means it grows several stems from an underground lignotuber and will grow no higher than 10m. There are areas in Australia where shrubby mallee eucalypts are the dominant form.