Corymbia ficifolia

Red Flowering Gum

Family: Myrtaceae


Note: This profile also includes the “Flowering Gum cultivars”. 

A tree restricted to the south-west of WA where it grows to a typical height of 10 metres, forming a lignotuber. It is generally found in the Walpole-Mt Frankland region (west of Albany) with some smaller populations to the east.

It grows on sandy soils in low-lying areas of heath or woodland.

The bark is continuous and flaky / tessellated, brown and does not shed much.

The juvenile foliage / coppicing-growth is disjunct, lanceolate to broad-lanceolate, mid-green and glossy in colour, to about 17 cm long and 5 cm wide.

The adult leaves are also disjunct, mid-green, dull to glossy, lanceolate (spear-shaped) to 13 cm long and to 5 cm wide. Leaves are noticeably discolorous.

The primary inflorescence of “eucalypts” (Angophora / Corymbia / Eucalyptus) is an umbellaster (an umbel-like cluster of flowers). In this species, the flower buds are arranged in umbellasters of 7, oval to pyriform (oval to pear-shaped), to 18 mm long and 8 mm wide. In Corymbia and Eucalyptus, the petals and sepals are fused into the distinctive calyptra (bud cap) which is shed when the flower opens. The calyptra / operculum is very short and rounded to flattened.

The conspicuous stamens give the flowers their appearance; red in colour. In Corymbia species, umbellasters are typically produced, in clusters, at the terminals, beyond the foliage to create a very showy display.
Flowering can be observed in December to May 2021, bright red to pink or orange.

The fruit is a capsule (commonly called “gumnut”) typically urn-shaped in most bloodwoods. In this species, it is large, to 45 mm long by 20 mm wide. The disc is deeply-depressed and valves enclosed. The fruit make for easy identification.

In the garden

Corymbia ficifolia is very common in cultivation and has been cultivated for a long time on the east coast.

It prefers a sandy soil in full sun. It can reach 15 metres tall in gardens so needs some space.

However, included in this profile is coverage of the various cultivars that are grown. From trial and error, it was found that this species did not grow all that well in all areas on the east coast of Australia and other areas.

Therefore, it was investigated if grafting could be undertaken. An article on this is pasted in the references. Plants of Corymbia ficifolia are grafted onto a north-east coast species, Corymbia ptychocarpa (Swamp Bloodwood). A range of cultivars and forms have been created with flower colours ranging from white to red, orange and pink.
These cultivars are much more reliable and grow on a range of soils. They also typically reach about 4 to 5 metres tall and are therefore very suited to small gardens.

Propagation

From seed for pure Corymbia ficifolia but cultivars could only be done from cuttings (if possible) to maintain true-to-type.

Other information

There are various cultivars now available in a range of flower colours (see references). These include:
• ‘Mini Red’: grows to 2.5 metres with bright red flowers
• ‘Wild Sunset’: grows to 6 metres with orange-red flowers
• ‘Wildfire’: grows to 6 metres with vibrant red flowers
• ‘Baby Orange’: grows to 3 metres with orange flowers
• ‘Baby Scarlet’: grows to 3 metres with deep red flowers
• ‘Calypso’: grows to 5 metres with deep pink flowers
• ‘Fairy Floss’: grows to 7 metres with light pink flowers
• ‘Snowflake’: grows to 6 metres with white flowers
• ‘Summer Red’ grows to 5 metres, with bright red flowers.

Eucalyptus ficifolia was transferred into the new genus Corymbia in 1995 when it was erected by Ken Hill and Lawrie Johnson. It is still seen under the earlier name in some published works.

Regenerates by regrowing from epicormic buds and lignotubers after bushfire.

Corymbia – from the Latin corymbium, meaning “corymb” (a raceme of flowers in which the pedicels of the lower flowers are longer than those of the upper flowers so that the inflorescence has a flat-topped appearance overall (like the shape of a piece of broccoli or cauliflower).
ficifolia – Latin – fici referring to the genus Ficus (the Fig genus) and -folia (leaves) – referring to the fig-like foliage of the species.

Not known to be at risk in the wild.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corymbia_ficifolia
https://www.flowerpower.com.au/garden-advice/gardening/flowering-gum-trees/
https://www.gardenclinic.com.au/how-to-grow-article/a-story-about-grafted-gums

By Dan Clarke