Eucalyptus melliodora

Common name: Yellow Box

Other common names: Honey Box, Honey-scented Gum, Yellow Ironbark, Yellow Ironbox

Description

Honey Box or Yellow Box is a Eucalyptus tree that many consider to be the best honey-producing eucalyptus in Australia, and is one of the great honey-producing trees of the world.

Its natural range extends across warm-temperate and subtropical areas in the south and south-east of Australia, from the Grampian Ranges in western Victoria, north through central and eastern New South Wales, to south-east Queensland.

A moderate to slow-growing eucalyptus, it may reach heights of up to 30 m (100 ft) in its natural habitat, though it is more commonly 15 to 20 m (50 to 65 ft) tall.

The trunk is usually straight, up to 1 m (3ft) in diameter and clear of branches for about half the tree height. It is covered with grey to yellow-brown bark that persists on the lower part but peels and sheds from the upper part and main branches, exposing smooth creamy-white underbark. The branches are few and ascending, forming an open, rounded, moderately leafy crown.

As with many eucalypts, the leaves change shape as the tree matures, the leaves on seedlings and juveniles near oval and short, those on full-grown trees narrowly lance-shaped, up to 13 cm (5 in) long. They are dark dull green on top, underneath slightly paler and remain on the tree throughout the year.

The flowers are typical of eucalypts, with long white filaments arising from a small goblet-shaped base. They come into bloom from spring through summer, in clusters of only a few arising at the sides, and ends, of the branches.

Fertilised flowers are followed by small, green, bowl-shaped seed capsules up to 1 cm (0.4 in) long that become brown and woody when mature with many small brown, reddish-brown or grey seed inside.

Use

The flowers produce abundant nectar, with the peak production period lasting for around six weeks, then with flows slowly declining thereafter. It is reported as a major honey tree in Australia and in countries where it is introduced, including Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Yields of up to 75 kgs (165 lbs) of honey per colony, per season, have been recorded in Australia. Yellow Box honey is a premier grade, light amber honey with a superior flavour and slow granulation, only starting to crystallize after about five years, or never in its purest, unadulterated form.

The nectar also helps nourish and sustain nectar-eating birds and bats, making it an important wildlife tree in its native range.

The timber has pale pink or yellow-brown heartwood, is hard and heavy, in the 900 to 1200 kg per cubic meter (56 to 75 lbs per cubic foot) range and has good natural resistance to rot, decay and wood-boring insects. It is used mostly in heavy construction and for poles, posts, fencing, flooring, decking and turnery. It is also an excellent fuelwood, suitable for firewood and for making high-quality charcoal.

General interest

The second part of the botanical name, melliodora, when translated from Latin means 'the scent of honey', referring to the sweet, honey-like scent coming from the flowers.

Climate

Grows naturally and is productive in sub-humid to moderately humid warm-temperate and subtropical climates, generally areas with annual lows of 5 to 17 °C, annual highs of 19 to 31 °C, annual rainfall of 500 to 1200 mm and a dry season of 3 to 8 months.

Growing

New plants are usually started from seed, which benefit from pre-soaking in water before sowing. Germination occurs within five to seven days under warm conditions.

Performs best on free-draining clay-loam, loam, sandy-loam and loamy-sand soils of a moderately acid to neutral nature, generally with a pH 5.0 to 7.5 and on sites with full sun exposure.

Once established, Honey Box trees have good tolerance to drought and soil salt conditions.

Problem features

There does not appear to be any record of it anywhere as a weed or invasive species, despite its introduction in multiple countries and areas outside of its native range.

Where it will grow

With irrigation or groundwater

References

Books

  • Blake, S. T. & Roff, C. 1987, The honey flora of Queensland, 3rd ed., Queensland Department of Primary Industries (QLD DPI), Brisbane

  • Boland, D. & Brooker, I. & McDonald, M. W. 2006, Forest trees of Australia, 5th ed., CSIRO Publishing (Ensis), Melbourne

  • Clemson, A. 1985, Honey and pollen flora, New South Wales Department of Agriculture, Inkata Press, Melbourne

  • Crane, E., Walker, P. & Day, R. 1984, Directory of important world honey sources, International Bee Research Association, London

  • Hall, N. 1972, The use of trees and shrubs in the dry country of Australia, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

  • Holliday, I. 2002, A field guide to Australian trees, 3rd revised editon, New Holland Publishers, Frenchs Forest, New South Wales

  • Marcar, N. E. 1995, Trees for saltland : a guide to selecting native species for Australia, Division of Forestry, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Australia, Canberra

  • Randall, R. P. 2002, A global compendium of weeds, R.G. and F.J. Richardson Press, Melbourne

  • Roecklein, J. C & Leung, P.S. 1987, A Profile of economic plants, Transaction Books, New Brunswick, New Jersey

  • Scheffer, T. C & Morrell, J. J. 1998, Natural durability of wood : a worldwide checklist of species, Forest Research Laboratory, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

  • Webb, D. B. 1984, A Guide to species selection for tropical and sub-tropical plantations, 2nd ed., Unit of Tropical Silviculture, Commonwealth Forestry Institute, University of Oxford, Oxfordshire

© All rights reserved Iplantz 2021