Information for this profile is drawn from Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018.
Eucalypts are iconic Australian forest trees. The Eucalyptus forest type is by far the most common forest type in Australia covering 101 million hectares, which is 77% of Australia's total native forest area.
The term ‘eucalypt’ includes approximately 800 species in the three genera Angophora, Corymbia and Eucalyptus. Almost all eucalypt species are native to Australia. Eucalypts evolved from rainforest ancestors, adapting to an environment in which drought, nutrient-poor soils and fire were increasingly common.
Eucalypts have oil-rich foliage that burns readily, and they display a range of strategies to survive and recover from fire. The majority of eucalypt species are evergreen, retaining their leaves year-round.
Distribution and ownership
The Eucalypt forest type is found in all states and territories and across all but the continent’s driest regions (Map 1).
A total of 35 million hectares (35%) of the Eucalypt forest type is in Queensland and 20 million hectares (20%) are in the Northern Territory. Thirty-two million hectares (32%) are on leasehold land, a further 32 million hectares (32%) are on private land and 18 million hectares (17%) are on nature conservation reserves (Table 1).
River red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) is the most widely distributed eucalypt, and is found in all Australian mainland states. The forests of south-eastern Australia contain a wide range of dominant eucalypt species, including major commercial timber species such as mountain ash (E. regnans), messmate stringybark (E. obliqua), alpine ash (E. delegatensis), silvertop ash (E. sieberi), blackbutt (E. pilularis) and spotted gum (Corymbia maculata).
Eucalypt forests in south-western Australia are dominated by jarrah (E. marginata) and karri (E. diversicolor). Typical eucalypts of northern Australia include Darwin woollybutt (E. miniata) and Darwin stringybark (E. tetrodonta).
Many species of multi-stemmed mallee eucalypts are found across the inland regions of southern Australia. In inland arid zones, eucalypts are confined to the edges of rivers. Eucalypts are generally not found in the tropical and subtropical rainforests in eastern Australia, or in the warm and cool temperate rainforests of Victoria and Tasmania.
The Eucalypt forest type is divided into 11 forest subtypes based on the form of individual trees, crown cover and tree height. Eucalypts grow in two forms: single-stemmed trees and multi-stemmed mallee.
A total of 60 million hectares (69%) of non-mallee Eucalypt forest is woodland forest, and 71 million hectares (81%) are medium-height forest (Figure 1).
Mature mountain ash (E. regnans) trees are usually between 55 and 75 metres high, in tall forest. Some mountain ash trees can grow to more than 90 metres, making this the tallest plant species in Australia, one of the world's tallest hardwoods, and one of the world's tallest flowering plants.
A total of 13 million hectares (94%) of mallee Eucalypt forest is woodland forest and 11 million hectares (81%) are low forest (Figure 2).
Eucalypt native forests are important for the conservation of Australia’s rich biodiversity. They support many forest-dwelling or forest-dependent species of flora and fauna. This includes species endemic to Australia, and species that are listed as threatened under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Indigenous Australians have traditionally used nearly all parts of eucalypt trees. Leaves and leaf oils have medicinal properties, and saps can be used as adhesive resins. Bark and wood have been used for making vessels, tools and weapons such as spears and clubs.
Because of the size, wood quality and widespread distribution and abundance of eucalypts, eucalypts are a significant source of wood. The variability in wood colour, shape, hardness, weight, strength and durability makes eucalypt useful for many applications. Sawn wood is used in large-scale construction, general building, furniture-making and wood-turning. Engineered wood products such as laminated veneers, fibreboards and particleboards are used for construction and flooring. Eucalypt wood is also used for chipping, paper pulp and fuelwood. Oils distilled from eucalypt leaves are used for aromatherapy and in perfumes.
ABARES 2018, Forests of Australia (2018), Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra.
Boland, D, Brooker, M, Chippendale, G, Hall, N, Hyland, B, Johnston, R, Kleinig, D, McDonald, M & Turner, J 2006, Forest trees of Australia, 5th edn, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.
Carnahan, JA 1990, Atlas of Australian resources, vol. 6, Vegetation, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.
Montreal Process Implementation Group for Australia & National Forest Inventory Steering Committee 2018, Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra.