Eucalyptus saligna

Sydney Blue Gum or Blue Gum

Family: Myrtaceae

A large tree that can become a giant, growing to 60 metres tall, with a narrow-ish canopy and forming a lignotuber.

It grows to as far south as Port Jackson (Sydney) then northwards, frequently along the coast to Maryborough in central Queensland. Then there are disjunct populations further north around near Gladstone, Blackwater, Carnarvon National Park and Mackay. It forms an integral part of many vegetation communities including the endangered Blue Gum High Forest Ecological Community in the Sydney region.

Populations found south of Port Jackson are now considered to be E. saligna x botryoides – a common tree in South Coast vegetation, especially around Kangaroo Valley. 

There are some spectacular remnant specimens in Sydney’s northern suburbs (Pymble, Pennant Hills, Wahroonga etc.), many of which persist in weed-infested or fragmented bushland, or, growing tall above houses.

The bark is smooth, pale grey or white with usually some rough brownish bark at the base of the trunk (referred to a ‘sock’).

Eucalyptus spp. have simple and usually alternate adult leaves with juvenile leaves starting off opposite to alternate (disjunct). In this species, juvenile/coppicing growth has lanceolate to ovate or oblong leaves, that are paler on the lower surface, to 120 mm long and to 40 mm wide. Adult leaves are arranged alternately, glossy green, paler on the lower surface, lanceolate to falcate, to 190 mm long and to 40 mm wide, on a petiole to 30 mm long.

The primary inflorescence of “eucalypts” (Angophora / Corymbia / Eucalyptus) is an umbellaster (an umbel-like cluster of flowers). In the flowers of Corymbia and Eucalyptus, the petals and sepals are fused into the distinctive calyptra / operculum (bud cap) which is shed when the flower opens (in some species, 2 bud caps (opercula) are shed). The flowers are conspicuously staminate – where many stamens are basically taking over the role of the petals, all surrounding one central carpel. In this species, the flower buds are arranged in leaf axils in umbellasters of seven, nine or eleven; the individual buds sessile or on pedicels up to 5 mm long. Mature buds are spindle-shaped, oval or diamond-shaped, to 10 mm long and to 5 mm wide with a conical or beaked operculum/calyptra. Flowers are white and occurs from December to March. 

The fruit of eucalypts are a woody capsule (commonly called ‘gum nuts’) which come in a wide variety of shapes with the top part having a sunken, flat or raised disc and with the valves inserted, disc-level, exserted to strongly exserted. In this species, the capsule is a woody cylindrical, conical or cup-shaped capsule to 9 mm long and to 7 mm wide with the valves protruding above the rim (exserted) and an outward direction from the centre.

In the garden

A very spectacular tree if grown in the right spot.

Can grow a very straight gum-trunk up to 30 metres or more.  Obviously, it needs a large open space to thrive. It may serve as a nice specimen plant in a park, a large garden any may be planted in a copse for revegetation purposes. Not suitable for small residential gardens. It prefers an enriched loam to clay-loam soil.

Trees can live for over two hundred years. They can grow remarkably quickly when planted from a seedling or tubestock, reaching 10 metres in a few years. 

The grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) eats the flowers and the crimson rosella (Platycercus elegans) eats the seeds.

A Koala food tree. This species is one of 27 more common eucalypt and corymbia plants eaten by them.

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.

E. saligna has an attractive rose-coloured timber which is suitable for commercial production due to its rapid early growth under favourable conditions, as well as its ease to work with.


Eucalypts can be propagated by seeds which is most common method or grafting.

Cuttings are difficult to start, but can be used in some species. For further information refer to: http://anpsa.org.au/APOL2007/sep07-s1.htm

Other information

Plants regenerate from lignotuber and epicormic shoots after fire. They will also regenerate from the seedbank.

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

It is well-known that Eucalyptus is a large and diverse genus. Between 700 and 950 known species are reported, occurring as far north as The Philippines, as well as Indonesia, New Guinea, Timor and Australia. Only 16 species reportedly occur outside Australia. They occur in all Australian states. NSW currently has about 250 species. (See this website for some detailed information: https://apps.lucidcentral.org/euclid/text/intro/learn.htm).

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).

saligna – Latin for ‘willow-like’ (genus Salix) referring to the long willow-like leaves.

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.

Australian National Herbarium – Eucalyptus saligna profile page          https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/trainees-2016/eucalyptus-saligna.html

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Eucalyptus saligna profile page

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.