33. XXXII. Eucalyptus piperita, Smith.

Description  299 
Notes supplementary to the description  300 
Synonym  301 
Range  301 
Affinities  303 

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XXXII. Eucalyptus piperita, Sm.

FOLLOWING is the original description:—

E. piperita, operculo hemisphærico mucronulato, umbellis lateralibus subpaniculatis solitariisve; pedunculis compressis, ramulis angulatis.

Lid hemispherical, with a little point. Umbels lateral, somewhat paniculated, or solitary; flower stalks compressed; young branches angular.—Syn. E. piperita, White's Voy. p. 226, figure of the leaves only.

A fine essential oil, much like that of Peppermint, is obtained from this species, and every part of the dried plant exhales the same odour when rubbed. We are now convinced this is distinct from the following (E. obliqua), having compared the flowers of both. At the same time we have observed the minute white spots on the leaves (White's Voy., 228) in E. piperita, as well as in the other.—(“Zoology and Botany of New Holland,” by G. Shaw and J.E. Smith, 1793, Vol. i, p. 42.)

Some confusion which has gathered around this species and E. capitellata described by Smith at the same time, is explained at p. 211, part VIII, of this work.

Smith again described the plant in Trans. Linn. Soc., iii, 286 (1797).

I have examined the following early specimens, and they are all E. piperita:—

  • (a) “Eucalyptus, Governor Phillip, New South Wales, ex herb. Lambert.” Herb. Cant. ex herb. Lemann.
  • (b) “Eucalyptus piperita, N. Holland, Dr. Smith, ex herb. Lambert.” Herb. Cant. ex herb. Lemann. Apparently a co-type.
  • (c) No. 4,725 of Robert Brown's specimens (1802–5) distributed by the late Mr. J. J. Bennett.
  • (d) “Eucalyptus closely allied to E. paniculata, Sm., Port Jackson, A.C.” Herb. Cant. ex herb. Lindl. Label in Allan Cunningham's handwriting.

Then we have—

“221. E. piperita, Smith. W., sp. (Willdenow's) 2.978. Hab. in Australia, Fol. 3' lg. 1' lt. parum acutata basi subovata.” (Link's Enumeratio.)

We have also Hoffmannsegg—

“431. Eucalyptus piperita. In Link Enum. folia … basi subovata dicuntur, itidemque in E. media, mucronata, et reticulata. In Flor. Port. autem constitutum est, ovatum esse id, cujus latitudo plus quam dimidium sit longitudinis. Tune hic terminus basin respicere nequit. Forte cl. Aut. sententiam ibi pronunciatam mutavit; equidem ei semper, utpote utilem expertus, fideliter adhæreo.” (Verz. Pfl. Nachtr. 2, p. 114.)

E. piperita was first fully described in English by Bentham, in B.Fl. iii, 207. Mueller described it and figured it in his “Eucalyptographia,” but his figure is very unsatisfactory, and his description shows that he has confused it somewhat with E. eugenioides, Sm.—like E. piperita, a common Sydney species.

The fruits depicted are intermediate between those of E. piperita and E. pilularis or E. eugenioides; they are far from being typical. Mueller states (“Eucalyptographia,” under piperita) that the seedling or juvenile foliage there depicted belongs to E. eugenioides. It is certainly not typical eugenioides, but rather capitellata or macrorrhyncha. See figures in Part VIII. The juvenile foliage of E. piperita is always glabrous.

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The species may be described as follows:—

Vernacular names.—“Peppermint” is its usual name about Port Jackson and in some other districts. It goes by the name of “Messmate” in some other parts of the State. It has been called “Almond-leaved Stringybark” and sometimes “White Stringybark.” Through confusion with E. pilularis (to which it is often not dissimilar in general appearance) it is sometimes known as “Blackbutt,” but such names as Stringybark and Blackbutt as applied to this species should be discouraged.

Bark.—Sub-fibrous on the trunk, with smooth branches. In mountainous districts it is often decidely a ribbony Gum.

Timber.—Pale-coloured, with gum-veins, deficient in strength and durability, and only used in default of better timber.

Seedling leaves.—The seedlings are cordate at the base; stem-clasping, blunt, or with a short, sharp apex. They are arranged decussately and horizontally; hardly glaucous; paler on the underside. Venation well marked. They have a strong peppermint perfume.

Mature leaves.—Very oblique, more or less falcate and acuminate. In the Flora Australiensis it is stated that the leaves are rarely above 1 inch long, but this appears to be a mere typographical error, as specimens with far longer leaves which were examined by Bentham himself, and leaves 5 or 6 inches long, are common. The venation is oblique.

Flowers.—Renantherous. The bud has a pointed operculum and is often curved; often nearly falcate when unripe. Sometimes the operculum is markedly pale-coloured; this is accentuated in dried specimens.

Fruit.—The fruits may be arranged under three forms, which pass into one another:—

  • (a) Urceolate (the type).
  • (b) Egg-shaped.
  • (c) Nearly spherical, open-mouthed.

Notes supplementary to the description.

As regards the shape of the fruits, we have—

  • (a) Urceolate.—This is the commonest Port Jackson form, and must, we think, be regarded as the type. It is probably the form corresponding to the leaves secured by White. It is found in the Blue Mountains, Goulburn, Braidwood, Moruya, and throughout the range of the species generally.
  • (b) Egg-shaped.—The range of this form is probably co-extensive with the species. We have egg-shaped fruits from Port Jackson, the Blue Mountains and the Mudgee district, and south to Thirlmere, Picton to Bargo and Ulladulla.
  • (c) Nearly spherical.—These occur at Manly, Port Jackson, and some other places elsewhere in this State. Some of Mr. Howitt's Gippsland specimens in my opinion also fall under this group. The fruits are very small, not exceeding 2 lines in diameter.

This form may, perhaps, be confused with E. numerosa, Maiden, if individual fruits be alone examined, but the leaves of the latter are much narrower, are thinner, duller, full of oil dots (the leaves reek with oil), and the twigs are rusty-tuberculate.

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In the “Flora Australiensis,” iii, p. 207, we find mentioned, var. laxiflora, Benth.:

Pedicels rather long. Fruit more obovoid, the rim more depressed. Manly Beach, Twofold Bay, Camden, Macleay and Clarence.

I have been trying to ascertain what this so-called variety really is. No specimens are so labelled in the Melbourne Herbarium, although it contains specimens from the Macleay and Clarence. Specimens from the other localities mentioned do not, in my opinion, answer satisfactorily to Bentham's brief description. They probably are referable to one of the many departures from the strict type of the species. Probably they are nearest to the egg-shaped fruits already referred to.

In a paper “On the essential oil and the presence of a solid camphor or stearoptene in the ‘Sydney Peppermint,’ Eucalyptus piperita, Sm,”note Messrs. Baker and Smith announce the discovery of a solid camphor named Eudesmol in this oil, and also in the oil of E. macrorrhyncha, F.v.M. The paper does not bear brief abstraction.


Metrosideros aromatica, Salisb. Prod. Stirp. in hort Chapel Allerton (1796), p. 351.

M. foliis alternis: laminis late ovatis, acuminatis, subtus glaucis, tenuibus. Sponte nascentem juxta Port Jackson legit, Dav. Burton.

A specimen of “Metrosideros,” “Peppermint tree” from Port Jackson received from Banks, and now in Herb. Vindob. ex Herb. Jacq., although in leaf only is E. piperita, Sm.

[E. piperata, Stokes, in Bot. Mat. Med. iii, 69, is a misspelling of piperita.

E. piperita var. pauciflora, DC., Prod. iii, 219, is Sieber's No. 470 = E. coriacea, A. Cunn. (Hooker's Fl. Tas. i, 136)].


THIS species is almost confined to New South Wales.

North and South Coast districts; as far north as the Myall Lakes, but the northern limit is uncertain. At Bullahdelah there are many large trees of this species, consequently it is not likely that this place represents its northern boundary.

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I have not seen any indubitable E. piperita from Queensland. There are plants in the Melbourne Herbarium from the Macleay and Clarence Rivers attributed to E. piperita, but they have no fruits, and the determination requires confirmation.

It is found on the Dividing Range and its spurs, being especially plentiful on the Blue Mountains. It is found west at least as far as Mudgee.

The typical form is found at least as far south as Moruya, but trees which are considered to belong to this species occur, as already indicated, as far south as Gippsland, Victoria.

“No. 32, Eucalyptus piperita, Smith.—DC., lc. iii, p. 219, n. 29. St. Kilda (Müll.),” Miq. Kruidk. Arch. iv; 137. St. Kilda is near Melbourne, and the locality requires confirmation.

It occurs on poor, rocky, sandstone land generally; is usually an indication of poor soil. It is very abundant in the Port Jackson district and in the Counties of Cumberland and Camden, New South Wales, generally.

Southern Localities.—The “Stringybark of Camden,” No. 124, 50–100 feet, W. Macarthur (1854), in Herb. Kew, is E. piperita. It was numbered 48 in the Catalogue of New South Wales Exhibits of Southern Timbers at the London Exhibition of 1862, where Sir William Macarthur gives the aboriginal name (Cumberland and Camden) as “Bour-rougne,” and its diameter as 24–54 inches. He adds: “Not equal in stature or in hardness to the coast variety” (doubtless of Stringybark).

Common about Hill Top (J.H.M.); Belmore Falls, Moss Vale (W. Forsyth); Barber's Creek, now Tallong (H.J. Rumsey and J.H.M.).

“Messmate.” Wood of a yellowish colour; when fresh much inclined to ring. Urceolate, shape of fruit very pronounced, reminding one a good deal of those of E. trachyphloia, from which the species differs in almost every other respect See fig. 8, Plate 45, Wingello (J. L. Boorman). At Wingello we also have it with fruits less pronouncedly urceolate and broader, more luxuriant foliage. From the same place, with the fruits nearly pilular—i.e., scarcely urceolate at all.

Conjola, near Milton (W. Heron); Currawang Creek, near Nelligen (W. Baeuerlen); Messmate and Almond-leaved Stringybark of the Clyde River (W. Baeuerlen).

Mr. Forester J. S. Allan, long stationed at Moruya, speaks of it as occurring “on the coast ranges; not plentiful.” This would refer to the southern part of the State. I have never seen it, at least in its typical form, south of the Clyde River.

Western Localities.—This is a common tree by the roadside most of the way going over the Blue Mountains, but does not continue much beyond the sandstone area towards Wallerawang (R. H. Cambage and J.H.M.).

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Mt. Wilson.—Here we have fruits less urceolate; the typical and less urceolate forms existing side by side.

Curricudgy Mountain, Rylstone District (R. T. Baker).

Northern Localities.—Gosford (H. Blacket). “Not very plentiful; scattered in places along the coast and slopes of Dividing Range and New England; somewhat gregarious in habit. Height 100 feet, diameter 2 feet 6 inches” (Mr. Forester Rudder, Booral).

Very scarce in the Kempsey District (Mr. Forester Macdonald).

I have not personally seen it further north than Bullahdelah (Mr. Rudder's locality).

As regards Queensland, while admitting it into his “Queensland Flora,” p. 613, Mr. F. M. Bailey says:—

There is some doubt as to whether the normal form of this species has been met with in Queensland. Some years ago, however, I gathered a specimen off a tree at Highfields, which Baron Mueller at the time considered the normal form, and now I have none of the specimens to refer to.


1. With E. eugenioides. (Compare Part VIII, p. 240.)

In the “Flora Australiensis” E. eugenioides is reduced to a variety of E. piperita, and even in the “Eucalyptographia” the Baron almost expresses doubts as to whether finally Bentham's opinion that both should be regarded as forms of one species may not have to be adopted. His figure of E. piperita is incorrect, as has already been pointed out. A comparison of the two types as they occur near Sydney must convince the most incredulous as to the distinctness of the two species. Nevertheless there are certain forms which, judging from herbarium specimens or fruits alone, are intermediate.

Howitt in his “Eucalypts of Gippsland” (Trans. R.S. Vict., Vol. ii, Part I, p. 87) speaks of the “near alliance” of E. piperita and E. eugenioides. Speaking generally, the two species are very distinct and are not to be mistaken one for the other. They differ markedly in their seedlings, in the venation of the mature leaves, and in the odour of the same; in their bark and timbers.

Howitt has figured a number of fruits in his Plate 13 which he attributes to E. piperita, viz., Nos. 6–19, Nos. 20 and 21 being referred to E. eugenioides. Nos. 6 to 9 are possibly, yet doubtfully, referable to E. piperita; as regards the remainder I would suggest that they belong to E. eugenioides without any doubt. I would also invite attention to Mr. Howitt's excellent drawings of seedlings on Plate 14. Nos. 1 and 4 seem to me to belong to identical species, viz., E. eugenioides. I never saw hairs on a piperita seedling.

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I would draw attention to the following specimens:—

  • (a) Bark fibrous; not so fibrous as that of a typical Stringybark, and perhaps little more fibrous than that of the ordinary E. piperita. The fruits nearly globular and showing a mottled appearance, due to unequal shrinkage of the outer layers of cells of the fruit. The orifice small, the rim depressed and not very prominent. The specimens, which are from Port Jackson, precisely match some labelled, in Baron von Mueller's handwriting, “Stringybark, E. piperita, Twofold Bay.” The fruits figured in the “Eucalyptographia” are not very dissimilar to them. They have short pedicels and are frequently sessile. The Port Jackson-Twofold Bay specimens may for convenience be referred to as A. The texture of the leaves of A and the prominence of the veins are perhaps intermediate between typical E. piperita and E. eugenioides, as is also the amount of essential oil so characteristic of E. piperita. The fruits of E. piperita have a very thin rim; in A it is a little broader, in typical E. eugenioides it is well defined. The size of the orifice of A is intermediate between the two species named. The shape of the fruits of A is less ovoid than those of E. piperita, and less hemispherical than those of typical E. eugenioides. At the same time it is referable to E. eugenioides without doubt.
  • (b) In 1879 Mr. A. W. Howitt sent to Baron von Mueller from Walhalla, Gippsland, specimens with the following note: “Tree locally known as Stringybark; the specimen is taken from a tree split for palings, and I am informed that the wood is sound and durable, and both saws and splits well.” The Baron labelled these specimens “E. eugenioides, Sieb.,” and also “E. piperita, Sm., var. eugenioides.” Some identical specimens sent by Mr. Howitt from the Tambo River were labelled by the Baron “E. eugenioides, Sieb.,” and he adds, “To this the specific name E. pilularis would well apply.” This is certainly E. eugenioides.
  • (c) Following is Mr. Howitt's note on other specimens:—“A Stringybark growing on the clayey flats (Post-Pliocene?) at Toongabbie, near the foot of the hills. Grows to a moderately large tree—say, 100 feet. Native name Yangoura.” The late Baron von Mueller labelled this specimen “E. piperita.” It undoubtedly bears the closest resemblance to the Port Jackson and Twofold Bay specimens just referred to. Some of the fruits are a little more ovoid than those of the Port Jackson and Twofold Bay specimens, but that appears to be because they are riper; specimens less mature from the three localities cannot be separated. This is E. eugenioides.

At Wingello, N.S.W., there is an interesting tree known as “Messmate,” one of two or three local trees which display variation. This particular “Messmate” has fruits with rather thicker rim than normal piperita, and some fruits even display a rim like eugenioides. It would be difficult, from fruits and leaves alone,

  ― 305 ―
to say whether this specimen is eugenioides or piperita, but the buds, bark, and timber display a closer tendency towards typical piperita, under which species I have accordingly arranged it. See fig. 8, Plate 45.

2. With E. pilularis, Sm.

It is clear, on reading Mueller's description of E. piperita in “Eucalyptographia,” that he has not had typical New South Wales specimens in his mind, for he describes it as having both “stem and branches covered with fibrous outside grey and rough bark,” and he mentions, as one of the means of distinguishing it from E. pilularis, “its rough bark extending to the branches (Pachyphloiæ),” whereas the typical E. piperita is only a “half-barked” tree like E. pilularis.

In the same work, under E. pilularis, he lays emphasis on the globular fruits of E. piperita, in contradistinction to those of E. pilularis. The matter is referred to at p. 300.

At Oatley, George's River, near Sydney (J. H. Camfield), we have a form apparently normal piperita in every respect, except that the fruits are very coarse and large, thick-rimmed, and nearly pilular. They certainly show affinity to E. pilularis, for which the fruits could be readily mistaken. I would call them an intermediate form.

3. With E. obliqua, L'Hérit.

I mention these two species together because they are so referred to in “Eucalyptographia,” but would point out that they have really very little in common. Reference to the shape of the buds, the venation of the leaves, and the coarseness of the foliage of E. obliqua alone show that the two species have no very close affinity.