Eucalyptus tereticornis

forest red gum


Eucalyptus tereticornis

Sm. 1795

pronounced: yoo-kuh-LIP-tuss ter-ee-tee-KOR-niss

(Myrtaceae — the gum family)


common name: forest red gum

native 4Eucalyptus is from two Greek words, ευ (eu), good, and καλυπτος (kalyptos), covered, i.e., well-covered; tereticornis is from the Latin teretus, circular, referring to the cross-section, and cornu, a horn, referring to the horn-shaped bud cap.

These trees are very important to the island, being one of the two main species our koalas depend on for food. Not surprisingly, there are quite a few growing by the track up to the Forts; the ones photographed are by the Horseshoe Bay Road in Horseshoe Bay.

The Forest Red gum, a lignotuber, is a tall, straight tree, 20–50 m in height, with an open rounded crown and a long smooth trunk which is white-grey and patchy. The girth of the trunk may be up to 2 m. The trunk is usually unbranched for more than half the height of the tree. Thereafter, the limbs are more steeply inclined than those of most other eucalypts. There is usually a stocking of coarser bark, 30 cm or more high, around the base of the trunk, left after the bark of the tree has shed in long strips during growth periods in autumn. These trees occur on the east coast of Australia from Gippsland in Victoria right up to far north Queensland, and into southern PNG.

The foliage and flowers are typical of eucalypts. The juvenile leaves are disjunct, broad lanceolate to ovate, and glossy green in colour. The adult leaves are narrow-lanceolate or lanceolate, 10 – 20 cm long, 1 – 3 cm wide, a dull green in colour.

White flowers occur from spring to summer, with abundant flowering occurring only about every fourth year. The umbels are 7– (rarely) 11-flowered, the peduncle narrowly flattened or angular, 7–25 mm long, the pedicels tapering cylindrical, 3–10 mm long.

The flowers are considered a delicacy by the Grey-headed Flying Fox, Pteropus poliocephalus.

The buds (1 – 2 cm long, 4   – 8 mm diameter) have an elongated conical cap, and the mature fruits (gum nuts), 4- or 5- locular, have valves that open and point upwards from the main body of the fruit.

Specimens of Eucalyptus tereticornis were first collected by the First Fleet surgeon and naturalist John White from Port Jackson in 1793, and published later that year by James Edward Smith in Zoology and Botany of New Holland. It was Smith who named the species.

The tree has a strong, durable red to dark red heartwood. The sapwood is distinctly paler in colour. The grain is moderately coarse, uniformly textured, and usually interlocked. It is a very durable timber, and easily seasoned either by air or kiln methods. The wood is not susceptible to lyctid borer attack, and is resistant to termites. It is a very hard timber, difficult to work with hand tools. The interlocking grain makes it difficult to dress cleanly on the radial surface. The wood will readily accept paint, stain and polish. It is used as sawn and round timber in wharf and bridge construction, for railway sleepers, poles, piles and mining timbers. It is also used as sawn timber in house framing, cladding, fascia and barge boards, flooring, joinery and fencing. It turns reasonably well. It is also used in making structural plywood, for boat building (keel and framing components), and for coach, vehicle and carriage building.

The leaves are used in the production of eucalyptus oil.


Photographs taken in Horseshoe Bay 2009
Page last updated 5th March 2019