12 Species of Gum Trees

Rainbow Eucalyptus in Maui
ShaneMyersPhoto / Getty Images

Within the myrtle (Myrtaceae) family of plants, there are three genera containing shrub and tree species commonly known as gum treesEucalyptus (the majority of gum species), Angophora, and Corymbia. The last genus once was included in the Eucalyptus genus up until the 1990s, and some sources may still identify the species as belonging to that genus.  Whatever genus they belong to, the species known as gum trees are so called because the species ooze visible amounts of thick sap if the trunk surface is damaged. The Sweetgums (Liquidambar spp.) and black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) are not related.

Almost all gum trees are native to Australia, where they are the primary food of koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus). Over time, they have been cultivated in other tropical regions around the world. There are gum trees that can even live in cooler temperate locations such as Norway. In some regions, gums are considered an invasive species.

Gum trees are readily identifiable by their smooth or stringy bark and lance-shaped leaves. Oil from the gum tree leaves is used in a variety of medications. Honey is made by bees that visit the trees, and many of the species have wood that is useful as lumber. Some people like to chew on hardened chunks of gummy sap. In landscape use, these are typically used as shade trees or specimen trees. Some gum trees form a lignotuber (underground root tuber with buds), often as a way to recover from fires. This tuber can produce new trunk stems as needed. A tree with this structure is called a mallee.

Here are 12 species of gum tree to consider if your climate and landscape is suitable.

Caution

Despite the enticing aroma, eucalyptus leaves and bark are poisonous to humans and most animals (though not to koalas, which feast on them). The oils in eucalyptus can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if too much is ingested. It is even possible for coma to occur. The oil from the leaves can cause a skin irritation, but this is rarely serious.

  • 01 of 12

    Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus)

    Windbreak Curve
    metriognome / Getty Images

    The blue gum, also known as the common eucalyptus, is the most commonly planted eucalyptus around the world. It is a shabby-barked tree with blue-green leaves. It has the distinctive menthol scent common to many gum species. It is a towering specimen with a diameter as much as 7 feet that produces a flammable litter on the ground, and thus is a notable danger in areas subject to wildfires. In some areas (especially California), this plant is invasive and planting it is discouraged. It is sometimes known as the common eucalyptus.

    Native Area: Southeastern Australia and Tasmania

    USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11

    Height: 98 to 230 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 02 of 12

    Dwarf Apple (Angophora hispida)

    White and yellow Dwarf Apple gum tree flower, Angophora hispida, Royal National Park, Sydney, Australia. Spring flowering
    KarenHBlack / Getty Images

    Also known as the scrub apple, the dwarf apple. As the species name hispida indicates, this tree has red bristles on the stems and the new leaves (hispada means "bristly). The dwarf apple is one of the smaller gum trees and looks somewhat like a juvenile apple tree, a resemblance that is responsible for the common name. It does not have the menthol scent found in many gum trees. The trunk is twisted and the tree flowers with clusters of white flowers in late fall and early winter. This tree may also be found as mallee varieties, forming a base tuber from which it can resprout.

    Native Area: New South Wales, Australia

    USDA Growing Zones: 10–11

    Height: Up to 25 feet tall

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 03 of 12

    Lemon-Scented Gum (Corymbia citriodora)

    lemon-scented gums at Parramatta Park
    Manfred Gottschalk / Getty Images

    This tree features leaves with a strong lemon scent that can be used as an insect repellant. This species forms a lignotuber. This is a tall specimen formerly classified as a Eucalyptus species, with the aromatic leaves common to that genus. The bark is white to pinkish copper, shedding in thin flakes. The lance-shaped leaves are glossy green. The tree has an elegant, stately shape that makes it a favorite in public gardens and large landscapes.

    Native Area: Northeastern Australia

    USDA Growing Zones: 10–11

    Height: Up to 150 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 04 of 12

    Manna Gum (Eucalyptus viminalis)

    Eucalyptus (Еucalyptus viminalis )
    ArtEvent ET / Getty Images

    The smooth, powdery bark on the manna gum comes off in hanging strips, making this tree unmistakable. The common name "manna gum" derives from a white powdery substance that falls from new leaves, sweet in taste and once used by aboriginal people. E. viminalis is one of the few gum tree species that can tolerate cooler climates. It is also known as white gum or ribbon gum.

    Native Area: Southeastern Australia

    USDA Growing Zones: 8–11

    Height: 100–150 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    Rainbow Gum (Eucalyptus deglupta)

    Rainbow Eucalyptus Tree
    twildlife / Getty Images

    This is the sole species of Eucalyptus that is native to a region north of the Equator. The spectacular bark is orange tinted but peels away to reveal hues of green, yellow, and purplish brown below the surface. Is is grown commercially for pulpwood, but is also used as an ornamental landscape tree in frost-free climates. It is one of the few Eucalyptus species not native to Australia.

    Native Area: Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia

    USDA Growing Zones: 9–11

    Height: 200–250 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 06 of 12

    Red Cap Gum (Eucalyptus erythrocorys)

    Vibrant yellow flowers and red buds of the mallee gum tree Eucalyptus erythrocorys, family Myrtaceae. Also known as the Illyarrie, Red capped Gum or Helmet nut gum.
    KarenHBlack / Getty Images

    In this tree, a scarlet cap covers the yellow blossoms before they open. This is a relatively small gum, with a low, spreading canopy that sags under the weight of large, bell-shaped fruit. This is another species that can be a mallee. Red cap gum trees are attractive to birds but the limbs are prone to breaking.

    Native Area: Western Australia

    USDA Growing Zones: 9–11

    Height: 10 to 30 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 07 of 12

    Red Flowering Gum (Corymbia ficifolia)

    Red Flowering Gum


    Danita Delimont / Getty Images

    The species name ficifolia indicates that the leaves of this tree are like those found on ficus trees. Like many other species in the Myrtaceae family, the flowers are made up of stamens with no petals. Bright red, pink, or orange flowers appear in winter and spring, making this one of the more popular gum species for landscape use. This tree belongs to a category of eucalyptus known as a bloodwood, named for the color of the sap.

    Native Area: Western Australia

    USDA Growing Zones: 9–11

    Height: 25 to 40 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 08 of 12

    Salmon Gum (Eucalyptus salmonophloia)

    Salmon Gum

     

    Australian Scenics / Getty Images

    This gum tree species sports smooth, salmon-colored bark during summer, which turns gray in the winter. The salmon gum is a good choice for regions with poor, salty soil. Though not a common landscape tree, it has a variety of practical uses, from firewood to furniture-making.

    Native Area: Western Australia

    USDA Growing Zones: 9–11

    Height: 50–100 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Silver Dollar Gum (Eucalyptus cinerea)

    silver dollar eucalyptus tree
    Etsy

    Juvenile sprigs from this species are often used in the floral design industry, as are the young leaves of another species known by the same name (Eucalyptus polyanthemos). The silver dollar gum grows fast enough in one season (6–8 feet) to work as a large annual in cooler areas. 

    Native Area: Southeastern Australia

    USDA Growing Zones: 8–11

    Height: 20–50 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 10 of 12

    Scribbly Gum (Eucalyptus haemastoma)

    Scribbly Gum Tree
    Ken Griffiths / Getty Images

    The name scribbly gum is inspired by the tunnels left by the scribbly gum moth larvae (Ogmograptis scribula) as they burrow in the bark. Other species that can be affected by the scribbly gum moth (and also known as scribbly gum) are Eucalyptus sclerophylla, Eucalyptus rossii, Eucalyptus racemosa, and Eucalyptus signata.

    This plant has attractive, twisted branches that make it an excellent specimen tree. It does well in poor, sandy soils, but adapts well to any soil that is well-drained.

    Native Area: Southeastern Australia

    USDA Growing Zones: 9–11

    Height: 40–50 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 11 of 12

    Snow Gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora)

    Snow gums (Eucalyptus pauciflora) on the Porcupine track.
    Ignacio Palacios / Getty Images

    The snow gum can survive in cold regions, even where there is snow. This tree is NOT true to its species name, which translates as "few flowers" (pauci=few, flora=flowers). As the Australian National Botanic Gardens mentions, the mistaken name may have been because the European botanist who cataloged the plant (Franz Wilhelm Sieber) came across an atypical specimen with an unusually low number of flowers, or because his collected specimen lost flowers in transit.

    Snow gum has smooth white, grey or yellow bark that is shed in ribbons and sometimes has insect scribbles. It often forms a lignotuber from which additional trunk stems can emerge.

    Native Area: Southeastern Australia

    USDA Growing Zones: 7–10

    Height: 30–100 feet, depending on subspecies

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 12 of 12

    Spotted Gum (Corymbia maculata)

    Spotted gums in forest on south coast
    lovleah / Getty Images

    The spotted gum with its lemon-scented leaves is endemic to Australia. The smooth, mottled bark forms an easily identified spotted pattern. These trees are a favorite food source for rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus). This large tree has many uses in parks or as a street tree, but it is too massive to be practical for most home landscapes.

    Native Area: Southeastern Australia

    USDA Growing Zones: Unknown; likely 9 to 11

    Height: 150–200 feet tall

    Sun Exposure: Full sun