Eucalyptus obliqua

Messmate, Messmate Stringybark

Family: Myrtaceae

Potentially a very tall tree, reaching 90 metres in some habitats. It has a sturdy straight trunk with continuous stringybark and forms a lignotuber.
It grows mainly on the borders of the NSW coastal and tablelands divisions, usually on soils of higher fertility – basalt and shale most commonly. It grows from south of Toowoomba in Queenland, on the northern tablelands / north coast of NSW down south along the ranges and slopes, into Victoria and Tasmania, as well as into SA, usually in cooler areas with higher rainfall.

It forms a dominant component of many vegetation types in some areas, some of which can be quite scenic – such as on moist ground with basalt rocks and a moist fern, grass and forb groundlayer.

The juvenile foliage / coppicing growth is disjunct, ovate to elliptic and glossy green.
The adult laves are also disjunct, broad-lanceolate to 15 cm long and about 3.5 cm wide, green and glossy and concolorous. Like all stringybarks, the leaves have an oblique (uneven) leaf base.

The flower buds are arranged in leaf axils in groups of 11 or more. Mature buds are clavate (club-shaped) to 7 mm long and 4 mm wide with a hemispherical operculum / calyptra. Flowering occurs in most months and the flowers are white.

The capsules are conspicuously barrel-shaped and aid considerably in identification (very different from other NSW stringybarks). They are to 12 mm long and 11 mm wide with valves usually enclosed or to rim-level.

In the garden

Not overly common in gardens and cultivation but they can be observed growing in lawns and gardens surrounding houses in areas such as the southern highlands of NSW. They can grow to be very large so not suited to small gardens. Very useful and attractive in large gully landscapes on higher fertility soils, as well as along creeklines. They can be very grandiose when large. Excellent specimen and shade tree in a larger landscape.

Eucalypts can suffer problems from, caterpillars, leaf eating beetles, psyllids and borers to name a few. In undisturbed conditions, the numbers of eucalypt-feeding insects and their predators and parasites are in balance, so that they rarely cause tree death and most trees quickly recover from attack. In a home situation nature can get out of balance.


Eucalyptus can be propagated by seeds which is most common method or grafting.
Cuttings are difficult to start, but can be used in some species.

Other information

Eucalyptus is one of three similar genera that are commonly referred to as “eucalypts”, the others being Corymbia and Angophora.

It is one of the most important Australian hardwoods. Used in furniture, pulp and construction.

The tallest known specimen is in Tasmania, at 86 metres.

Regenerates from fire from epicormic shoots and lignotuber as well as from seed bank. 

Eucalyptus – from Greek, eu, “well” or “true” and calyptus, referring to the calyptra (καλύπτρo) or operculum, which is a bud cap or covering which covers the developing flowers. The calyptra is a fusion of petals and/or sepals and is shed when the flower opens, leaving a flower with many stamens (staminate) surrounding one female part (carpel).

obliqua – Latin for “oblique” referring to the uneven leaf bases. Reportedly, this was one of the first stringybarks formally described – in 1789. It is considered a poor name, as all stringybarks exhibit this feature of oblique leaf bases.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

“Field Guide to Eucalypts Vol 1 South Eastern Australia’ M.I.H.Brooker and D.A.Kleinig. Blooming Books.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Eucalyptus obliqua profile page

EUCLID – Eucalypts of Australia – Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research – Eucalyptus obliqua profile page                                        https://apps.lucidcentral.org/euclid/text/entities/eucalyptus_obliqua.htm

By Jeff Howes, edited Dan Clarke