Eucalyptus is a genus of plants containing over 500 unique species, primarily native to Australia and Tasmania. The distinctly aromatic trees have adapted to many extremes of the Australian environment, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on the region that they grow in. Eucalyptus has also been widely imported to other parts of the world, where it poses a substantial threat to native species, as it grows rapidly and often chokes other plants and trees out.
In Australia, eucalyptus is also known as "malee," and a specific widespread tree, Eucalyptus globulus, globe eucalyptus, is known as "blue gum." The trees have been used by the Aborigines for centuries for timber, tinder, and medical purposes, and have also been utilized by settlers to the region. In Australia, eucalyptus is an iconic part of the national culture, and appears in Australian art and films as a familiar part of the landscape.
The trees has a useful aromatic oil which can be extracted through steam distillation. The oil is used in perfumes, and also in complementary alternative medicine. The oil has been shown to have antiseptic, antibacterial, anti inflammatory, expectorant, and deodorant properties, and is a common additive in products like muscle rubs and deodorant compounds. Care should be taken when using products which contain eucalyptus oil, as it is flammable and also toxic when eaten.
Like many other members of the myrtle family, eucalyptus is extremely fast growing. It can shoot up to great heights in regions with enough water, or will spread out into dense bushes. The trees prefer moisture, and often cluster around waterways and springs. Many species are also designed to spread through wildfires, which are common in many parts of Australia. The seedpods will burst in a fire and grow quickly in a region stripped of other plants by a wildfire, quickly establishing a large tract of new eucalyptus trees.
Eucalyptus from Australia can be considered sustainable timber, because the trees are native to the region and they regrow quickly. However, eucalyptus harvested in other regions may not be sustainable, because it grows at great cost to native plant and tree species, and can destroy valuable habitat. In Australia, eucalyptus plays a vital environmental role, providing food and habitat to animals like koalas, along with helping to retain valuable topsoil. Eucalyptus can be found in a variety of wood products exported from Australia including flooring, paper, and finished furniture.