Useful Trees That Explode – Eucalyptus Part Deux


Eucalyptus tree

 As promised, here is the second and last post on the amazing Eucalyptus tree. 

You’ll recall in Part I (Eucalyptus-Koala Bears Don’t Catch Colds) I spoofed around a bit, saying that Koala Bears never caught colds because all they eat are eucalyptus leaves, and I promised to be a little more factual in the final post.

So, to be a bit more factual, it turns out Eucalyptus trees are pretty interesting and useful.  There are over 700 varieties of them and they are predominantly in Australia.  They have special oils, one of which we use for those Halls menthol eucalyptus cough drops.  And on warm days in Australia, the vapor from these oils actually creates a distant blue haze in the Australian landscape.

The oils are highly flammable, and Eucalyptus trees have been known to explode, a fact I rather enjoy, so long as no one gets hurt.

But lest you get the wrong impression about them they are very useful to us human types.  I particularly like the fact that they have become a cash crop in poor areas of the world – which really, really need cash.  And they are used for timber, firewood (big surprise), pulpwood, fence posts and charcoal.  They can also be used to create biofuels.

And on balance, they improve our environment and health.  Since they grow so fast, they can be used as windbreaks to reduce soil erosion, and because they draw a large amount of water from the soil they can be used to reduce soil salination.  Their water appetite has even been used to reduce malaria in some regions because they can drain local standing water areas, thus killing off mosquito larvae before they hatch.

Eucalyptus oils can be distilled and used for cleaning, deodorizing, some food supplements, and the ubiquitous cough drops.

The trees are not without some controversy on the ecological front.  Because of their usefulness they have been cultivated in many places in the world outside of Australia, and there have been concerns that they have crowded out other species and reduced the local natural diversity.  But I think this is probably more our fault than the Eucalyptus, in that we humans tend to take useful plants to an extreme and create the monoculture we complain about.

So on balance, the Eucalyptus is quite beneficial and unique.

So there you have it, a tree that helps impoverished people by generating cash, reduces malaria, makes our cough drops, generally hangs out in a cool country like Australia and explodes on occasion just to make things interesting.

I say if the Eucalyptus can do all that, and the Koala bears like them, the trees have my vote.

Have a nice day – J. Daniel

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