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Eucalypts

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Eucalypts

For the genus of flowering plants native to Australia, see Eucalyptus

Eucalypt is a descriptive name for woody plants with capsule fruiting bodies belonging to seven closely related genera found across Australasia: Eucalyptus, Corymbia, Angophora, Stockwellia, Allosyncarpia, Eucalyptopsis and Arillastrum.[1]

Evolution and distribution

For an example of changing historical perspectives, in 1991, largely genetic evidence indicated that some prominent Eucalyptus species were actually more closely related to Angophora than to other eucalypts; they were accordingly split off into the new genus Corymbia.

Although separate, all of these genera and their species are allied and it remains the standard to refer to the members of all seven genera Angophora, Corymbia, Eucalyptus, Stockwellia, Allosyncarpia, Eucalyptopsis and Arillastrum as "eucalypts" or as the eucalypt group.[1][2][3][4]

The extant genera Stockwellia, Allosyncarpia, Eucalyptopsis and Arillastrum are recognized as having evolved from ancient lineages of the Myrtaceae family. According to genetic, fossil and morphological evidence, it is hypothesised that they evolved into separate taxa before the evolution of the well known Eucalyptus genus, the related Corymbia, Angophora genera, and all of their many species.[1] These four genera with ancient origins, comprising six known species, today successfully reproduce naturally and grow in monsoon forests and rainforests in north-eastern Australia, Arnhem Land plateau, New Guinea, Moluccas and New Caledonia. However, across the Australian continent since its climatic drying, these humid habitats have become relatively restricted areas compared to present day New Guinea and to ancient times when Australia was part of the Gondwana continent.

Eucalyptus deglupta has naturally spread the furthest from its Eucalyptus genus Australian geographic origins, constituting the only species found in the nearby northern hemisphere, growing naturally from New Guinea to New Britain, Sulawesi, Seram Island to Mindanao Philippines.[1] Eucalyptus urophylla also grows naturally as far west as the Flores and Timor islands.[1]

Adaptations

Eucalypts from fire prone habitats are attuned to withstand fire in several ways:

Their seeds are often held in an insulated capsule, which opens only in response to and after the devastation of a bushfire. Once cooled down, the land becomes a freshly fertilised seed bed. Oils in the leaves tend to make the fire more severe and therefore more damaging to less attuned species, giving an evolutionary advantage to the eucalypts. Epicormic buds under the often thick bark of the trunk and branches are ready to sprout new stems and leaves after a fire.

These advantages work well in areas affected by long dry spells.

There are over 700 eucalypt species that dominates landscapes all over Australia, but diversity is reduced in rainforests and arid environments.

Predators

Eucalypt leaves are low in protein and high in toxins. The main consumers of Eucalypt leaves are the Koala and Eucalyptus Leaf Beetles.

External links

  • Australian Native Plants Society
  • Currency Creek Arboretum

References

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