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CCLIV. E. tetrodonta F.v.M.

In Journ. Linn. Soc., iii, 97 (1859).

FOLLOWING is a translation of the original:—

A tree with angular branchlets, leaves opposite, falcate-lanceolate, gradually acuminate, moderately petiolate, opaque, indistinctly penniveined, peripheral vein rather close to the margin, umbels axillary, terminal, solitary, bibracteate, three-flowered, bracts slowly falling off, rather large, the angled peduncle the same length as the petiole, calyx sub-campanulate, quadridentate, gradually narrowed into a compressed pedicel which is barely the same length as the tube, teeth deltoid, operculum hemispherical, and the tube and spreading teeth twice as long as the operculum.

In woody elevated less fertile tracts everywhere in Arnhem's Land. (At Port Essington, Armstrong, and on the North Coast, A. Cunningham in herb. Hook.) Flowering in August and September.

A medium-sized tree with a straight slender trunk, with a dirty grey fibrous bark persisting all over. With bark of “Stringybark trees.” Branchlets reddish, rigid. Leaves 3–6 inches long, ½–1½ inches broad. peduncles 3–4 lines long, bearing at the apices two cymbiform, lanceolate, obtuse, acuminate bracts, about 3 lines long, deciduous. The tube of the calyx with the teeth, 4–5 lines long. Operculum coriaceous, obtuse, opaque, greenish. A species especially remarkable for the toothed calyx, showing transit to Angophora.

Bentham (B.Fl. iii, 260) then described it in the following words:—

A tree, with a whitish, fibrous, persistent bark (F. Mueller). Leaves opposite or alternate, long-lanceolate, acuminate, often falcate and above 6 inches long; coriaceous, but the numerous somewhat oblique veins prominent, the intramarginal one near the edge. Peduncles axillary or two or three together at the ends of the branches, short and thick but not dilated, each bearing three or very rarely five rather large flowers, on thick angular or flattened pedicels of 2 to 4 lines. Calyx-tube obconical or turbinate, 3 to 4 lines long, with four rounded very obtuse teeth, slightly prominent on the bud. Operculum hemispherical or nearly globular, smooth. Stamens very numerous, the longest attaining 5 or 6 lines, not distinctly arranged in clusters; anthers oblong, with parallel cells opening longitudinally. Ovary flat-topped. Fruit oblong-cylindrical, ½ to ¾ inch long, 4 to 6 lines diameter, not contracted at the orifice, the rim narrow but forming an acutely prominent ring, the capsule sunk, usually three-celled.

Mueller subsequently redescribed it and figured it in “Eucalyptographia.”

In this work he speaks of it as “not tall” and “stem rather slender,” and in the original description as a “meduim-sized tree.” It will be observed that, as regards the Northern Territory, it is described as “exceedingly well developed and reaching very large size, 70 or 80 feet or more and 3 feet or more in diameter.” It is evidently one of the most important timber trees of the tropics, and it is desirable that we should know more of its distribution and abundance.

Mr. W. V. Fitzgerald (MSS.), speaking of Kimberley, says: “Tree of 40–50 feet, trunk to 25 feet, diameter 1–1½ feet; bark persistent on stem and branches, greyish, fairly rough, and very stringy; timber pale, fissile, moderately hard; filaments yellowish-white.”

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Mr. R. H. Cambage, speaking of North Queensland, says (Proc. Roy. Soc. N.S.W., XLIX, 414, 1915):—

This species, which was the only Eucalypt met with belonging to the sub-series Eudesmieæ, is a very interesting one, for in addition to being one of the few having calyx teeth, like the Angophoras, it is apparently the only stringybark to be found in Northern Australia, excepting in the extreme east. It is known both as Messmate and Stringybark, and its bark is decidedly fibrous, the timber being reddish-brown. … The “sucker” leaves are opposite or alternate, ovate to ovate-lanceolate, up to 7 inches long by 3 to 4 inches broad, with petioles of half to three-quarters of an inch long, the lateral veins being arranged at an angle of about 60 degrees with the midrib, the intramarginal vein being close to the edge, the midrib prominent on the upper side of the leaf, the young leaves often reddish. The trees, which are erect, have an average height of about 40 feet with a diameter of about 1 foot, and prefer siliceous soil.

There is a discrepancy in the colour of the timber as given by Fitzgerald and Cambage, but anyone who has given much attention to Stringybark timber in general knows how it varies in colour according to the district, and as the tree is large or small and the specimen fresh or dry.

I overlooked Mr. Cambage's earlier description of the juvenile leaves, or I would not, in the following passage, have stated that they had hitherto not been described.

Juvenile leaves of this species have been received from Darwin from Dr. Jensen (July, 1916), and have not hitherto been described. I proceed to describe them.

The branchlets are markedly quadrangular, and like the leaves are entirely glabrous or very slightly glaucous, and equally green on both sides. They are large, oblique or falcate, very acuminate with prominent purplish midribs, raised chiefly on the lower sides of the leaves.

Secondary veins very distinct, but fine, roughly parallel, and making an angle of about 60 degrees with the midrib. The intramarginal vein is at a considerable distance from the edge.

A not uncommon size of the lamina is 25 cm. (say 10 inches) long and 13 cm. (say 5 inches) broad, with a petiole of 1·5 cm. Still in the opposite stage they may be half the width. (Maiden in Ewart and Davies' “Flora of the Northern Territory,” p. 314, 1917.)

The flower buds are strongly reminiscent of large cloves, the opercula are ribbed, the ribs being occasionally almost winged.

E. tetrodonta would probably merge into the division of Pachyphloiæ, which comprises all the Stringybark trees.” (“Eucalyptographia.”)


The type came from the entrance to the Victoria River and the elevated sterile districts of Arnhem's Land, “Stringybark.” (Mueller.) These are, of course, Northern Territory.

Bentham adds “North Coast,” A. Cunningham, and Port Essington, Armstrong. Mueller (“Eucalyptographia”) adds to these Port Darwin, Maria Island and Liverpool River and Escape Cliffs. All the localities so far quoted are Northern Territory, unless Cunningham's be tropical Western Australia.

But Mueller has definitely reported it from Tropical Western Australia (Prince Regent's River), while we have abundant localities from Northern Queensland. So that

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its range may be at present stated as from the most northern tropical portion of Australia, extending from the West Kimberleys in Western Australia along the Northern Territory to North Queensland.

Western Australia

Mueller first recorded the species from Western Australia from the Prince Regent's River, collected by Bradshaw's Expedition. See Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W., xvi, 469 (1891).

Subsequently W. V. Fitzgerald reported “A small forest of Messmate or Stringybark was observed in sandy loam and among quartzites on the Packhorse Range.” (Kimberley Report, p. 12, 1907.)

Some of his specimens are labelled “Messmate Creek (presumably named after this tree), Packhorse Range,” and Packhorse Range generally. (W. V. Fitzgerald, No. 1,214.) The locality is, of course, considerably south of the Prince Regent's River. Mr. Fitzgerald (MSS.) adds Charnley River in West Kimberley, and says it is called “Messmate” and “Stringybark,” and that it is found in sandy soil overlying quartzite and sandstone.

Northern Territory

It is frequently referred to as “Stringybark” by Leichhardt in his “Overland Expedition from Moreton Bay to Port Essington.” It is the Stringybark of the Gulf Country, and he notes it both in what is now Northern Queensland and the Northern Territory. I have seen a specimen of his labelled “West Coast of the Gulf.” Dr. H. I. Jensen says, in a letter to me, “Stringybark occurs, as in the Northern Territory, on poor sandy granite and sandstone soils, but not abundantly.”

The following specimens are before me:—

Bathurst Island (G. F. Hill, No. 466); Melville Island (Prof. Baldwin Spencer); Darwin (Nicholas Holtze, Prof. Baldwin Spencer).

“The common Stringybark from Port Darwin to inland slopes, several hundred miles from the coast. Always on poor soil—coastally rather stunted in porcellanite and laterite formation. At the Adelaide River, Stapleton, Batchelor, and in the hill belt generally, exceedingly well developed and reaching very large size, 70–80 feet or more high, and 3 feet or more in diameter on granite, quartzite, and sandstone.” (Dr. H. I. Jensen.) (G. F. Hill, No. 340.)

“Large Eucalypt, hard wood.” Batchelor Farm (C. E. F. Allen, No. 224). “Stringybark Box, white flower,” Pine Creek (Dr. H. I. Jensen). Pine and Horseshoe Creeks (E. J. Dunn and R. J. Winters).

Edith Creek and track generally to Katharine River (Prof. Baldwin Spencer).

Speaking generally, but with especial reference to Darwin, Dr. Jensen writes: “On the granite country we get Stringybark (E. tetrodonta), Bloodwood (E. latifolia), E. setosa, Salmon Gum (?), Ironwood (? Tristania suaveolens). E. miniata, and patches, of E. phœnicea.”

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Following are some localities of specimens I have seen, and with the greater settlement in Queensland, as compared with the remainder of the tropics, I look for additional localities, in order that its range may be better defined.

Sources of the South Coen River (Stephen Johnson, in Melbourne Herbarium). This is, of course, in the Cape York Peninsula, and the most northern Queensland locality recorded.

Stewart River (Stephen Johnson).

This is the species referred to by Leichhardt as Stringybark, and noted at various points from the upper Lynd right to the settlement at Port Essington.

Walsh River (correspondent of F. M. Bailey). Mitchell, Gilbert, and Norman Rivers (E. Palmer).

“Messmate,” “Fibrous or stringybark on trunk and large branches, 40–50 feet.” Little River, between Gilbert River and Croydon (R. H. Cambage, No. 4,005).

It was first noticed between the twenty-second and twenty-fourth mile posts from Alma-den, and again towards the fifty-first mile post. It was subsequently seen at various points along the Gilbert River, at the changing station on the Little River, and around Normanton. (R. H. Cambage in Proc. Roy. Soc. N.S.W., xlix, 413, 1915.)

Referring to Leichhardt's “Overland Expedition to Port Essington,” at p. 279 (op. cit.), he speaks of the koolimans of the natives being “very large, almost like small boats, and (were) made of the inner layer of the bark of the Stringybark tree.” At p. 285, “The Stringybark grew to a fine size on the hills, and would yield, together with Ironbark, and the Drooping Tea-tree, the necessary timber for building.” At p. 291, “All along the Lynd we had found the gunyas of the natives made of large sheets of Stringybark, not, however, supported by forked poles, but bent, and both ends of the sheet stuck in the ground.” They found them frequently afterwards during the journey round the Gulf.


1. With E. odontocarpa F.v.M.

“… this, however, I found only of shrubby growth, its leaves much narrower, the calyces very considerably smaller on shorter and thinner stalklets, the fruit also of much less size, its minute teeth protruding beyond the outward not decurrent rim.” (“Eucalyptographia,” under E. tetrodonta). See also under E. odontocarpa at p. 145.

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2. With Angophora.

“… the strongly toothed calyx demonstrates some transit towards Angophora, although the lid is no ways dissolved into petals as in that genus, nor can the operculum be rightly regarded as petaloid, it being quite of the texture and structure normal in most Eucalypts, indeed, in this respect not different from the lid of E. Preissii, E. terminalis, E. Abergiana, and a few other species, in which the calyx is rather irregularly ruptured than circumcised by a clearly defined sutural line; at best only the inner layer of the lid could be assumed to be corollaceous, but it is closely connate with the outer stratum as usual in the genus.” (“Eucalyptographia.”)

The relations of the Eudesmieæ to Angophora will be treated at greater length in my grand classification of the various species of Eucalyptus.