The eucalyptus is a native tree of Australia, where it is sometimes called the “gum tree” or “string-bark” tree. It has now been introduced into Europe, Algeria, Egypt, India, South America, and the southern United States.
The eucalyptus is one of the most striking trees in appearance. Its leaves are leathery and hang down verti- cally in most cases. The trunk is tall and straight, and grows at a remark- able pace. Saplings of the eucalyptus tree have been known to grow as much as 4 metres in a single year! In height, a cucalyptus can even equal the giant sequoias of California. There are eucalyptus trees that are nearly 140 metres tall.
The eucalyptus is an extremely useful tree. It requires a great amount of moisture, so it is often planted in swampy regions. By drawing water out of swamps, it can actually help fight malaria in certain regions of the world.
One of the most remarkable things about this tree is that it actually provides man with medicine. The leaves are dotted with pores that hold a straw-colored oil, which smells something like camphor oil. This is eucalyptus oil. This oil is sometimes given to patients to be inhaled to clear the nasal passage.
Eucalyptus oil is also used as medicine internally. It has an effect on the kidneys, and it also depresses the nervous system so that it slows up breathing. It has even been used by surgeons as an antiseptic!
The wood of this tree is adaptable and durable. Eucalyptus wood is valuable in building docks and ships, and it is in great demand for the interiors of houses because it can be given an attractive, highly polished finish.