The eucalyptus tree is the mainstay of Australia's forests; over 700 species of eucalyptus exist in this large continent. Eucalyptus goes by many names, such as gum, mallee, box, ash, ironbark and stringybark. This amazing tree is an important part of Australia's ecosystem. It is the main source of nourishment for the loveable Koala bear. Most importantly, it is able to survive the fires that often ravage Australia. It is also highly valued for its medicinal qualities.
The eucalyptus tree is one of the tallest trees in the world, and it has existed in Australia for millions of years. This amazing tree has remained a part of the Australian landscape due to its ability to withstand extreme conditions--poor soil, drought and fire. These qualities have enabled the eucalyptus tree to take root, grow and flourish in this vast continent.
Eucalyptus trees have the ability to survive the the frequent destructive forest fires of Australia. (These horrendous fires are even fueled by the eucalyptus oil that is contained in their foliage.) Not only do they survive, but they recover quickly and even seem to flourish after a fire. One factor contributing to their survival is their thick bark, which protects the trunk of the tree.
Growth After a Fire
A chemical change takes place within the tree itself after a fire occurs, which causes new growth on the trees. This chemical change is triggered by the heat of the fire. Additionally, after fires the winds carry the seeds of the eucalyptus tree, scattering them about the forest floor, and new trees begin to grow. It is through this cycle of renewal that the eucalyptus tree remains the dominant tree in Australia's landscape.
After a fire, termites are attracted to the weakened eucalyptus trees. They attack their trunks and branches, eating the wood and hollowing them out. The hollowed-out trunks and branches then become homes to kookaburras, cockatoos, rosellas and sugar gliders.
The koala can be found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Koalas eat the leaves of about 20 of the 700 species of eucalyptus trees that are found in Australia. Koalas also enjoy eating the young shoots of the tree. Not all species of the eucalyptus tree grow in all of the states where the koala is found, so their diet varies according to the species of trees that are growing in their habitat. Koalas are nocturnal and feed on the eucalyptus trees at night.