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The Most Colorful Tree On Earth

Photo: Jeff Kubina
Rainbow Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta)

The Rainbow Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta) or Mindanao Gum is the only species of Eucalyptus tree found in the northern hemisphere. As if that weren’t extraordinary enough, the up to 70-m tall tree also shines in the colours of the rainbow: its bark can take on a yellow, green, orange and even purple shading!

Nope, no crazy abstract painter has put a paint brush to this tree:

Photo: Lisa Jacobs

The unusual phenomenon is caused by patches of bark shedding at different times. The different colours are therefore indicators of the age of the bark: Freshlyshed outer bark will reveal the bright green inner bark. This darkens over time and changes from blue to purple and then reaches orange and maroon tones.

Like a natural camouflage pattern:

Photo: carvalho

One would think that a tree this pretty and unusual should, well, if not be worshipped, at least be put on public display in parks and forests. Sadly, that is not the case. Rainbow Eucalyptus trees are cultivated around the world mainly for pulpwood creation purposes. Wood pulp is the most common ingredient when making paper, white paper that is. The pulp can be chemically or mechanically separated from the wood. It is a dry, fibrous material whose fibres disperse and become more pliable when suspended in water.

Rainbow Eucalyptus trees at the side of Hana Highway in Maui, Hawaii:

Photo: Forest & Kim Starr

Pulpwood’s here to stay though as it is considered a source of green energy, and demand has increased over the last few years. Currently though, trees cultivated specifically for pulp production account for only 16% of world pulp production. About 9% comes from old growth forests and the remaining 75% from second-, third- and more generation forests. That’s a lot of tree years wasted for a bit of pulpwood! However, reforestation and specific cultivation for pulp wood purposes are on the rise, making the trees a renewable energy.

Colourful wonder:

Photo: Amelia

If you want to spot a Rainbow Eucalyptus tree live and in all its glory, you’ll have to travel to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea or the Philippines, the tree’s only native places. However, it has been introduced worldwide as an exotic wood in South America, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, China and other countries.

© Simone Preuss

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Wow I have been going back and forth to the Philippines for 40 years and never heard of this tree, will have to show my wife pictures of it later.
God's glory, man's madness. Sigh......
WOW!!! I have a friend that deals in exotic hardwoods. I'll have to see if he can get some of this stuff. Might be nice as a veneer for headstocks or even inlays.

This looks like a box made from it. Dunno about the Pioneer Woman ones, think they are from glued-up dyed bits.
although it may seem a crime to pulp it cos it so pretty, eucalypts offer great many advantages over other trees for renewable resource..

they actually grow back from a stump!! Im very busy tomorrow, but in the coming days i'll get you guys some pics of my yard and the surrounding parks, you can see for yourself, i know of a few coming back just around me here right now, bright green shoots just starting from a stump. IN this part of the world we have a lot of forest fires and a lot of the trees have ways of coming back from fire, this is one here..

First time i ever saw these was in PNG, they are quite plentiful there.. but i had never heard of it, i thort i was tripping out.. The trees all around me are just exactly like this, bar the colour of course.. and yes, it only skin deep.. underneath its just another 'gum tree' the wood is very strong and can sometimes have an awesome fiddleback appearance. But it moves a lot when its drying up; for this reason eucalypts are milled oversize, there is a lot of wastage probably another reason its pulped. Australian eucalypts were planted in many other parts of the world including California and South Africa because its such a fast growing tree. The Californian government in fact sponsored large plantations, aimed for railway sleepers but later found the wood no good because it warped on them so badly. In South Africa eucalypts are considered a noxious weed. Here the mills know to cut planks oversize and dress them up when fully seasoned, so its a cheap and plentiful wood for decking and other outdoor building and furniture. I've made a few necks from it, got one on the bench now, (spotted gum, very very similar tree, sans colour) they come out quite heavy, but very strong and it has a nice oily texture, maybe like rosewood..

Thanks for posting Ted, I havent thought about these trees in a long long time.
That tree should be called " The GENE tree".
this is a different, not nearly so bright Australian eucalypt right near my place..

and here is a new one growing out of the bones of an old one...
as u can see, the old stump took a good chunk of its roots out with it..
I'll be back in the ute for this log tomorrow night, if i can find a mate to help load it, will be very heavy..

thats my daughter, Charli btw..
wow! that box is stunning

Diane in Chicago said:

This looks like a box made from it. Dunno about the Pioneer Woman ones, think they are from glued-up dyed bits.
yall really should quit painting your trees.
We get 'normal' Eucalyptus over here, which has the same patterning, but it more camo colours - green / grey.

I think though that as its just the bark that creates the effect, the grain is nothing like as special.....

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