― 231 ―

The Red Gum Tree


Floribus pedunculatis, calyptra conica acuta

(See Plate annexed.)

This is a very large and lofty tree, much exceeding the English oak in size. The wood is extremely brittle, and, from the large quantity of resinous gum which it contains, is of little use but for firewood. Of the leaves Mr. White has given no account, nor sent any specimens. The flowers

  ― 176 ―
grow in little clusters, or rather umbels, about ten in each, and every flower has a proper partial footstalk, about a quarter of an inch in length, besides the general one. The general footstalk is remarkably compressed (anceps), and the partial ones are so in some degree. We have perceived nothing like bracteæ, or floral leaves. The flowers appear to be yellowish, and are of a very singular structure. The calyx is hemispherical, perfectly entire in the margin, and afterwards becomes the capsule. On the top of the calyx, rather within the margin, stands a conical pointed calyptra, which

  ― 232 ―
of the same colour with the calyx, and about as long as that and the footstalk taken together. This calyptra, which is the essential mark of the genus, and differs from that of the Eucalyptus obliqua of L'Heritier only in being conical and acute, instead of hemispherical, is perfectly entire, and never splits or divides, though it is analogous to the corolla of other plants. When it is removed, we perceive a great number of red stamina, standing in a conical mass, which before the calyptra was taken off, were completely covered by it, and filled its inside. The Antheræ are small and red. In the center of these stamina is a single style or pointal, rising a little above them, and terminated by a blunt stigma. The stamina are very resinous and aromatic. They are inserted into the margin of the calyx, so that the genus is properly placed by Mr. L'Heritier in the class Icosandria. These stamina and style being removed, and the germen cut across about the middle of the calyx, it appears to be divided into three cells, and no more, as far as we have examined, each containing the rudiments of one or more seeds, for the number cannot with certainty be determined. Whether the calyptra in this species falls off, as in that described by Mr. L'Heritier, or be permanent,

  ― 233 ―
we cannot tell. From one specimen sent by Mr. White, the latter should seem to be the case; and that the calyx swells and rises around it nearly to the top, making a pear-shaped fruit, with the point of the calyptra sticking out at its apex; but as this appears only in a single flower, and none of the others are at all advanced towards ripening seed, the flower in question may possibly be in a morbid state, owing to the attacks of some insect. (See fig. g.) Future observations will determine this point. We have been the more diffuse in our description on account of the singularity of the genus, and the value of the plant.

Colour plate facing page 231 of 'The Bark of the Red Gum Tree'

On making incisions in the trunk of this tree, large quantities of red resinous juice are obtained, sometimes even more than sixty gallons from a single tree. When this juice is dried, it becomes a very powerfully astringent gum-resin, of a red colour, much resembling that known in the shops by the name of Kino, and, for all medical purposes, fully as efficacious. Mr. White administered it to a great number of patients in the dysentery, which prevailed much soon after the landing of the convicts, and in no one instance found it to fail. This gum-resin dissolves almost entirely in spirit of wine, to which it gives a blood-red tincture. Water

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dissolves about one-sixth part only, and the watery solution is of a bright red. Both these solutions are powerfully astringent.

The plate represents a portion of the bark of the Eucalyptus resinifera, with the fructification annexed.

  • a. Is a bunch of the flowers the size of nature.
  • b. The flower, its calyptra, or hood, being removed.
  • c. Calyx.
  • d. Stamina.
  • e. Pistillum.
  • f. Calyptra separate.
  • g. The enlarged flower, which we suspect to be in a diseased state.