One of the most common things I hear people say about the Australian bush is how drab it looks. European preconceptions make us think that the emerald green lushness of the Northern Hemisphere is somehow the ‘correct’ way for the countryside to appear, and that there is something wrong with the blue-greens and olive hues of the eucalypts and acacias and melaleucas and all the other plants that make up Australia’s forests.

But this is the ill-considered view of the person who hasn’t spent time among eucalypts. These beautiful trees are subtle and complex, and like all worthwhile things, patience is required to fully appreciate them.

Some interesting snippets about eucalypts:

★When the early ships of explorers and white settlers came to Australia they knew they were approaching land well before they could see it; the eucalyptus forests were so dense they could smell them miles from shore. (Gum – Ashley Hay)

★Eucalypts grow prolifically on the west coast of the US but they do not belong there. I once had an animated discussion with a producer of a well-known classical music group in which she insisted that eucalypts were native to the US. They are not. The 600+ known species are endemic to Australia, with about 12 further species known in far southern Asia. The reason that eucalypts grow in California is because they were taken there in the 1870s, perhaps by miners returning from the Australian gold rush. They had optimistically thought that this hardy tree would be a useful source of hardwood timber. Indeed, the trees thrived in their new home. They grew fast, as much as twenty feet a year. Too fast. In Australia, the growth rate is checked by insects and drought, to produce a very fine-grained hard timber. In North America, there was nothing to slow them down. The transplanted trees were big and impressive, but their timber was fibrous and brittle. It was a disaster. Now the eucalypts in the US can’t be considered much more than weeds.

★Koala bears are not bears, and do not spend their days stoned out of their minds on the oil from eucalyptus leaves, as many people believe. Koalas are just very relaxed kinds of guys.

★Only one tenth of Australia’s original forest remains. And this is being cleared with little thought. It is a travesty of the highest magnitude. We humans don’t deserve this place.