Plant of the Month — April 2010
Eucalyptus desmondensis Maiden & Blakely — Desmond Mallee
April’s plant of the month is a small, slender, willowy mallee (mallee being the habit of woody plants that grow with multiple stems from underground lignotubers or food stores). Eucalyptus desmondensis grows in height to 1.45m and has smooth, whitish bark that makes a contrast to the deep creamy-yellow flowers and when in bud, to the deep red of the bud caps or operculums. Its soil preferences include stony loam or sand, clay, granitic soils, rocky hillsides and sandplains, all of which can be found in the Ravensthorpe Range area of the Esperance botanical region of south-western Australia.
Eucalyptus desmondensis belongs to the family Myrtaceae and its generic name is derived from the Greek eu meaning well and calyptos, covered, refering to the operculum or bud-cap that covers the stamens in bud. The specific epithet desmondensis is named after Desmond, a locality in Western Australia near Ravensthorpe, plus ensis Latin for ‘native of’. It was formally named by J.H. Maiden and W.F. Blakely in 1925. This small tree is a Priority 4 species, a conservation category for taxa which, whilst being rare, are not considered to be currently threatened but require regular monitoring.
Extracting essential oils from mallees began in the latter part of the 19th century. The early development of this important industry was assisted through the efforts of the German pharmacist and botanist Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, appointed in 1853 as Government Botanist of Victoria. His vast contribution, along with botanists Maiden and Blakely, to botanical knowledge of the Australian flora, especially the eucalypt genus, was invaluable. Joseph Maiden, appointed Government Botanist and Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney in 1896, was a recognised authority on both Acacia and Eucalyptus.
Photo: G.F. Craig
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