Messmate Stringybark

Messmate Stringybark

Common name Stringybark Messmate
Botanical name Eucalyptus obliqua
Family Mytaceae
Natural range SE Australia
Mature height Average to 30m but can reach 90m
Form Upright spreading tree in forests, can be stunted near the coast
Likes Adapting to stresses – fires, droughts – bring it on!
Dislikes n/a
Where to plant Somewhere with lots of space
Known for Being the first Eucalypt named by Europeans
The Quintessence of Australian Trees: The Stringybark Messmate
The Epic Introduction of the Eucalyptus Genus

Delving back to 1777, English botanists embarked on a discovery journey to the mysterious Terra Australis – the land down under. Amidst their exploration, they chanced upon a distinctive tree, shipping off some branches to England. David Nelson and William Anderson, part of Captain James Cook’s third expedition, were the explorers who made this fascinating find on Bruny Island in modern-day Tasmania.

The branches reached the British Museum in London, where Charles Louis L’Héritier de Brutelle evaluated them. He identified the samples as a previously unknown genus to European botany, thus christening them as Eucalyptus – marking the inception of the well-known Aussie gum tree.

A Greek Naming Conundrum: Understanding Eucalyptus

The genus ‘Eucalyptus’ borrows its name from the small caps covering the buds of these trees. In Greek, ‘eu’ translates to “well”, and ‘calyptos’ to “covered”, collectively signifying the tree’s unique structure. The sampled tree from Bruny Island was specifically named Eucalyptus obliqua for its oblique or asymmetrical leaf base – earning it the name, Stringybark Messmate.

The ‘Messmate’ part of the name is shrouded in mystery, though the ‘Stringybark’ component clearly indicates its bark’s texture.

Celebrating the Colossal Natives: Spotlight on Messmate

The Stringybark Messmate is an endemic hardwood tree found abundantly in Tasmania and Victoria, along with New South Wales’ tablelands and southern parts of Queensland. Remarkably, these trees can tower up to 90m, with a trunk diameter reaching up to 3m. Notable instances include the multi-stemmed giant residing in the Dandenongs.

Adaptable to a wide array of soil types, these trees primarily flourish in hilly or mountainous areas. When you explore cool, high-altitude regions, you’ll often find Messmates forming a tall, open forest with fellow Eucalyptus species like the Brown Barrel, Shining Gum, Manna Gum, and Alpine Ash.

More than Just Trees: Valuing Messmate Timber

These giants are more than just a beautiful part of the landscape; their timber is in high demand for a plethora of applications. Frequently, it’s sold alongside Mountain Ash as ‘Tasmanian Oak’ or ‘Vic Ash’, marking its significance in the timber industry.

Fun Facts About the Messmate
  1. The Stringybark Messmate was the first Eucalyptus species ever recorded by European scientists.
  2. It’s incredibly adaptable, thriving in various climates from the coastal regions to the mountainous terrains of Australia.
  3. Its bark, which gives it its name, is stringy and can peel off in long, thin strips.
  4. Despite the harsh conditions it endures, the Stringybark Messmate can live for several hundred years.
  5. It plays a crucial ecological role, providing habitats for various wildlife species, including the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum.
Further Reading Links
  1. Flora of Australia: Eucalyptus obliqua
  2. Stringybark Messmate’s Role in Forestry
  3. Eucalyptus Tree Identification Guide
  4. Tasmanian Timber: Properties of Eucalyptus obliqua
  5. Eucalypts: Icons of the Australian Bush
  6. Tasmania’s Giant Trees: Stringybark Messmate
  7. Eucalyptus obliqua and Climate Change
  8. Encyclopedia of Life: Eucalyptus obliqua
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