Journal of the Australian Native Plants Society Canberra region (Inc)

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The curious history of Eucalyptus alpina

By Anthony Meyer

March 2021

Eucalyptus x alpina buds, Yamba Drive, ACT 2019


A Victorian gum, this time.

E. x alpina growing from an old lignotuber in shallow soil over rock

Eucalyptus alpina (S.l.), or Grampians Gum, has been known and admired by generations of awestruck visitors to the Grampians National Park over the years. Most texts have described it as either a low, dense, mallee-like shrub, a small tree or a larger single trunked tree. These forms have been thought to have come true from seed. The mallee version has dark green, oval leaves with prominent oil glands on the stems. The buds are glaucous and warty and open into capsules up to 15mm in diameter with attractive, widely open valves. It is a most ornamental shrub, and not too big for a modest garden. Its habit is very dense and protective of wildlife.

In 1993, however, along came botanists PY Ladiges and T Whiffin, who published a revision of E. alpina in Australian Systematic Botany 6 (4) 365–370. SB9930365 © CSIRO 1993

This led essentially to the plant being considered a natural hybrid of E. baxteri (Benth) and not a distinct species at all. It is hence nowadays always referred to as Eucalyptus x alpina. Eucalyptus baxteri, or Brown Stringybark, grows all over southern Victoria and SA, including Kangaroo Island.

As an interesting postscript, some of the better travelled among us will know that there is a band of volcanic outcrops extending eastward from the Grampians. Where a mountain emerges from this line of volcanoes, there is often found a very particular Eucalypt. There are three Eucalypts described as ‘straggly trees’, all within the Grampians National Park, which have been the source of confusion:

Eucalyptus serraensis is a mallee of the Wonderland Range and NorthWest Serra Range of the Grampians National Park. This is a popular rock climbing area.

Eucalyptus verrucosa sp nov is a small tree of the Serra Range.

  • Eucalyptus victoriana is a small straggly tree found at Mt Thackeray.

There are clearly common features between these three species and E. x alpina. The photograph of E. x alpina buds was taken by me from a remnant of a roadside planting of these trees by the ACT Government, on Yamba Drive, in the late 1990s. I think this goes to demonstrate their suitability for Canberra Gardens. As a further postscript, I have a dozen or so progeny from these mallees which will be available for sale in coming months, for those who are interested.

E. x alpina growing from an old lignotuber in shallow soil over rock.

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