Plunkett mallee

Plunkett mallee

Mallees are small, multi-stemmed trees belonging to the Eucalyptus group. The trunks grow from a lignotuber which is a woody swelling of the root crown. The lignotuber stores food supplies and protects the stem from damage such as caused by fires. The Plunkett mallee (Eucalyptus curtisii) naturally grows sporadically from Plunkett (hence its common name) south of Beenleigh, west to Dalby and Theodore and north to the Glasshouse Mountains, areas prone to bushfire. Much of the tree’s habitat has been destroyed due to clearing, timber harvesting, inappropriate (less than three years) fire regimes and poor grazing practices. As such the Plunkett mallee is listed as Near Threatened.

This attractive tree grows rapidly to its 4 – 6 m height, with smooth grey to silvery bark that sheds in short, curly brown fakes. The alternate leaves are generally lanceolate with glossy green upper and pale under surface. It has honey-scented, cream blossoms in spring. Like all eucalypts, these flowers form a cluster. The petals and sepals of each flower are fused to form a bud cap or operculum that is shed when the flower opens to expose the many stamens (male, pollen-producing parts) that surround the single, central female carpel. The tree is a significant wildlife habitat as the blossoms attract birds, butterflies, bees and gliders. The fruit, a woody capsule or gum nut, can be found on the tree throughout the year.

Although naturally growing in shrubland and open forest, the Plunkett mallee will grow in a range of soil types in full sun. It has two growth forms, depending on its habitat. The shorter mallee form occurs most often on poorly drained, lowland sites whilst the larger, single-stemmed form is found in better drained soils such as shale and sandstone and is invariably found in cultivation. A Plunkett mallee will make a lovely, ornamental garden tree that usually flowers within three years of planting and is frost and salt tolerant.

Eucalyptus curtisii
Eucalyptus curtisii. Photograph by Heather Knowles.
Eucalyptus curtisii
Eucalyptus curtisii. Photograph by Heather Knowles.

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