Tallowwood

Tallowwood

Tallowwood (Eucalyptus microcorys) is a fast growing, moderately tall evergreen tree that is found in tall open forests from Fraser Island in Queensland to Cooranbong in New South Wales and inland to Toowoomba. The trunk, which can become very thick, is straight and branchless for two thirds of its height and covered in rough, fibrous red-brown bark. The crown is compact with horizontal main branches and lance-shaped glossy green leaves that are paler on the underside. These leaves are a source of food for koalas whilst the profuse bundles of small cream flowers, between August and January, are a rich source of nectar for bees and other insects.

Although this tree is too large for most suburban gardens, it is certainly one that should be considered by those living on larger properties and acreage or involved in revegetation projects. In these areas, tallowwoods make beautiful specimen trees or wind beaks.

Being a subtropical species, Eucayptus microcorys grow best where summers are hot and moist and winters dry with a mean annual rainfall between 900 and 1500 mm. When mature it can survive short periods of frost and drought. Although the tallowwood can grow in a variety of soil types, it prefers a moderately fertile, well-drained but moisture retentive soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7 in a sunny position. Since it develops a lignotuber (a woody swelling of the root crown) the tree is able to regenerate after crown damage such as occurs in a bush fire.

Grown in mixed cultures of forest trees it is considered a valuable resource species. Essential oil is readily extracted from the leaves. Astringent kino resin, used in mouthwashes and the treatment of skin conditions, in tanning, or preserving and dyeing natural fibres, is obtained from the bark. The heartwood is yellowish brown and the sapwood somewhat paler with a coarse, greasy texture. The wood is strong, hard, very durable and resistant to termite attacks, making it suitable for many commercial uses including flooring, heavy construction, railway sleepers and poles. Charcoal is also produced from the timber. If, however, this species is grown in a large monoculture, especially outside its natural range, many environmental problems can occur. Tallowwoods produce biochemicals that have a detrimental effect on other community members, inhibiting growth of native flora and reducing habitats for native fauna. Additionally, they take up large amounts of water and dissolved minerals, reducing the availability of these for other plant species.

Eucalyptus microcorys, Tallow Wood
Eucalyptus microcorys. Photograph by Neil Murphy.

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