Plant Highlight: Eucalyptus caesia
Eucalyptus trees, members of the Myrtle Family (Myrtaceae), are a familiar part of the California landscape, even though none are native here. One species, the Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus), has adapted so well that it is widely considered an invading pest tree. Not all species of Eucalyptus are large trees, however, and many of the shorter-growing kinds have remained relatively unknown to gardeners in California despite their attractiveness. One of these modest-sized species is Eucalyptus caesia.
Like most species of Eucalyptus, E. caesia comes from Australia, where it grows on granite outcrops in the southwest part of the country. Its reddish-brown bark has strips which peel back to expose the green trunk beneath. The ends of the branches are thin and flexible, and they often droop downward. The branch tips and the bases of the flowers are whitened by a powdery coating. When in bud, the flowers are topped by a pointed whitish cap, and this is shed to reveal the cluster of showy pink or pinkish-red stamens. The flowering period is in late winter to early spring.
As a native of the winter-rainfall region of Australia’s west and south, E. caesia is well adapted to Mediterranean climates such as California’s. It is quite drought-tolerant, making do with as little as 12 inches of annual rainfall, and it can endure freezes down to the low twenties Fahrenheit (-5° C).