As the two remnant trees on our farm, River red gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) hold a special place in our hearts. Our red gums are bent and stretch up the hillside away from the prevailing winds. Red gums are not unique to the Fleurieu however, in fact, their high level of adaptability means that they have a distribution across Australia, most commonly occurring on floodplains and waterways as well as throughout higher rainfall regions.
With red gums as a significant species in the past ecosystem of our property, they’ve been a clear choice for revegetation. When planting, we’re constantly inspired by their resilience. I’ve heard it said that red gum roots grow at a centimetre a day, which puts them at over three-and-a-half metres a year. If it’s true, then it’s an indicator of their startling ability to find water and nutrients. We’ve been amazed by some of our red gums that have shot to almost 1.5 metres after a couple of years in the ground, but also by their apparent capacity for dormancy. Some seedlings will sit in dry, cracked clay soil for months on end, leaves green but not growing. Then, with a decent rain, they burst into new growth. Likewise, others appear to have died, leaving nothing but a dry stick until the opening rains of autumn when they reshoot from the ground, sending out a profusion of leaves and spindly branches. We’ve noticed some other plants behave similarly – the occasional melaleuca or acacia for example – but none so consistently and successfully resurrect themselves as the red gum.