A native of eastern Australia, the Lemon eucalyptus tree yields valuable essential oil, wood and nectar for honey production.
There are two subspecies recognised, Corymbia citriodora subsp. variegata, with a natural range limited to the subtropics and Corymbia citriodora subsp. citriodora, with a more expansive range that extends from the subtropics to the hilly tropics.
It is fast-growing and may become a large tree, reaching heights of up to 50 m (165 ft) in natural woodland and forest habitats, though is more commonly 20 to 30 m (65 to 100 ft) tall.
The trunk is usually straight, slender, mostly branch-free and with flaking bark that exposes smooth, creamy-white bark underneath, over time and with weathering becoming pinkish, grey or bronzed coloured. The branches are few and ascending, forming an open, rounded, moderately leafy crown.
The leaves are typical of those of an oil-yielding Eucalyptus, being dull green with a narrow blade shape and those of subsp. citriodora are strongly lemon fragrant when crushed.
From winter to spring, small powder-puff-like flowers with long white stamens come into bloom and are followed by small, woody, urn-shaped seed capsules containing tiny, glossy, reddish-black seed.
The leaves of subsp. citriodora yield commercial quantities of a lemon-scented essential oil extracted by steam distillation. The oil is mainly used as a fragrance, in perfume and toiletry products, and as raw material for the production of menthol. A high citronellal content also gives it natural insect repellent properties, which has led to the development of compounds such as 'Citriodiol', the active ingredient found in many insect repellent sprays and lotions sold in the market today.
About 10,000 to 25,000 kilograms of fresh leaves can be harvested per hectare, per year, in commercial plantations and with an average oil content of 1%, yields 100 to 250 kilograms of oil, the equivalent of 90 to 220 pounds of oil per acre.
Both subspecies produce a heavy wood in the 800 to 1000 kg per cubic meter (50 to 62 lb per cubic ft) range, with high natural resistance to rot, decay and wood-boring insects. This classes it as a durable hardwood suitable for indoor and outdoor construction. The sapwood is whitish and the heartwood light to dark red-brown with attractive, wavy figuring.
Well-formed logs are sawn into beams and planks used in heavy and light construction, for railway sleepers, house framing, as well as interior and exterior flooring or decking. Smaller diameter roundwood is cut for transmission poles, fence posts, high impact tool handles and for fuelwood, either for firewood or for making charcoal, which burns steadily and produces little ash.
The flowers serve as a valuable source of pollen for brood-rearing honeybees and as a source of nectar for honey production in Australia, as well as in countries where the tree is an introduced species. It is reported as a major, introduced honey tree in Brazil, Madagascar and Mauritius, with honey yields per hectare of trees estimated at around 113 kgs (249 lbs) per year. The honey is light to medium amber, firm-textured with a fair flavour and is slow to granulate to a coarse, brown grain.
The tree is sometimes cultivated as a landscape tree in large gardens and parks, on account of its slender, erect form and smooth bark.
Lemon eucalyptus grows naturally in moderately humid subtropical and tropical mid-elevation climates, generally best in areas with annual lows of 9 to 19 °C, annual highs of 19 to 35 °C, annual rainfall of 600 to 2300 mm and a dry season of 7 months or less, extending to 12 months with irrigation or groundwater.
New plants are usually started from seed, which are tiny and don't require a covering of soil to germinate but benefit from soaking in water overnight.
Performs best on free-draining clay-loam, loam, sandy-loam and loamy-sand soils of a moderately acid to slightly alkaline nature, generally with a pH of 5 to 7.5 and on sites with full sun exposure.
Large amounts of small seed are produced and fall to the ground where they germinate readily. It is assessed as a high weed risk species for Hawaii and Florida, respectively by the Hawaii Pacific Weed Risk Assessment (HPWRA) project and the IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas.
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