One of Australia’s best-known and most loved eucalypts, river red gum has a wide distribution in mainland Australia. It is absent only from southern Western Australia, south-western South Australia and eastern parts of Victoria, New South Wales and southern Queensland. It is a symbol of inland Australia: it tends to avoid heavily forested, high-rainfall districts, but extends, along watercourses, through many arid regions, including the far inland.
Seven subspecies are recognized. Subspecies camaldulensis is particularly well known: it occurs through much of south-eastern Australia, including southern parts of South Australia and most of Victoria and New South Wales. In the Flinders Ranges of South Australia is subspecies minima. Subspecies arida extends from coastal Western Australia, in the Geraldton region, eastwards through large parts of the Australian inland.
River red gum impresses with its imposing appearance. Its height — usually 10-30 metres — is not remarkable. In some places it grows to 50 metres, but even that is not as tall as many of Australia’s forest trees. Nonetheless, it is large and majestic. Where it occurs it is usually larger than any other species near by, particularly in its wide spread, and most of all in the thickness of its trunk and branches. Occasional specimens have trunks of four metres or more in diameter! Adding to the visual impression is the great amount of foliage that the thick branches often support, well spread through the tree’s crown.
These massive trees often give a pleasing feeling of permanence. And restfulness too, with their pleasant greenish or blue-green foliage, against which the pale, smooth-barked branches stand out well. Moreover, since river red gum often occurs in attractive spots near water, the beauty of this species is often enhanced by that of the surrounding scenery.
On my infrequent visits to eastern Australia, I have photographed river red gum in only a few, scattered places, in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
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© Text and photographs: Robert Powell