Guest Blogger: David Dahlson
The Eucalyptus family of trees provides the floral industry with many ubiquitous products that we see used in contemporary design, as well as some rather esoteric items as well. The variety of shapes and sizes seen in the foliage alone is impressive; from the Spiral form of Baby Blue, to the ovate leaves of Silver Dollar, the tiny leaves of E. parvifolia or the the willowy leaves of E. nicholii. The flowers of many of the eucalyptii are also fabulous, available in Hot Pink, Red and White and which range in size from large baseball size blooms to clusters of tiny flowers. Then there are of course the wonderful seeded eucalyptus varieties which most popularly are available in big “gum-nut” types. And what of the seeded eucalyptus, that is frequently used as a filler, I hear you ask?
Well, the versatile filler we have come to know as “Seeded Euc” is not in fact bearing seeds at all. They are in fact flower buds, with a rare feature found only in Australia, and which contributed to the name we use today.
Eucalyptus trees were doubtless observed by Captain Cook’s crew, and we know material was collected by Sir Joseph Banks on the first trip to Australia in 1770. However, the first serious study of eucalyptus was undertaken by French botanist Charles-Louis L’Héritier de Brutelle with material brought back in 1777 from the third voyage of Captain Cook. Working at the British Museum in London, L’Heritier proposed the name Eucalyptus for the specimen, which he developed from two Greek words: “Eu” meaning well; and “calyptos” meaning covered. He named the plant thus because of the unique covering on the flower buds, which pops off when it is ready to flower. This component is called the operculum, which is Latin for “little lid”. While L’Heritier was probably not aware that this was a key genetic component of all eucalyptus varieties, his keen observational skills lead to a pertinent name for this versatile plant.
So, the next time you order seeded eucalyptus, remember that you will be getting flower buds, unless of course you want eucalyptus with seeds, in which case you will be getting eucalyptus nuts.