Eucalyptus camaldulensis (River Red Gum)Inland River Red Gum

The River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) is a widespread native across all mainland Australia. It is one of Australia’s iconic trees, a widespread tree found along watercourse and frequently a dominant part of riparian (situated on the banks of a river) communities.

River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Ormiston Gorge NT
River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Ormiston Gorge NT

With the most widespread natural distribution of any eucalypt species in Australia, the River Red Gum is often the main species of many river and catchment areas such as the the Murray-Darling catchment and the ephemeral rivers and creeks of Central Australia such as in the Todd River and Finke River systems. In Central Australia, some are recorded as 300 years old, and can reach ages of 500 to 1,000 years.1

The Barmah-Millewa Forest located in Victoria and New South Wales, is a Ramsar site (a wetland of International Importance), with flood plains that is known for being home to the largest population of river red gum forest in Australia.2

Giant Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Orroroo, SA
Giant Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) (2003), Orroroo SA

In Orroroo, South Australia, one of their attractions include their massive “Giant Red Gum”, which is over 500 years old.

Giant Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Orroroo, SA
Giant Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) (2003), Orroroo SA

Belonging to the family Myrtaceae, genus Eucalyptus. The term eucalypt by French botanist Charles Louis L’Héritiert de Brutelle in 1788 — is from the Greek eu meaning “well” and calyptos (also spelt ‘kalytpos’) meaning “covered” — “well covered”. so called for the covering on the bud of the plant (the gumnut having a cap or operculum).

River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Ormiston Gorge NT
River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Ormiston Gorge NT

The River Red Gum was formerly known as Eucalyptus rostrata. The species camaldulensis – named in 1832 from a cultivated specimen growing in a garden of Camaldulian order of religious hermits named from the St Roumald’s chief foundation colony at Camaldoli in Tuscany, Italy.

River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Ormiston Gorge NT
River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Ormiston Gorge NT

A medium to tall tree up to 40 m high, with a large spreading crown, some older River Red Gums have a trunk measuring 5 metres and more around. The species displays considerable variation within a range and across the country. The bark is smooth, mottled white, yellow and grey, whilst those in Central and Western Australia also display a mottled white and rust red in colour. The bark sheds at intervals throughout the year. The bark is usually rough at the base of the tree. Whilst many red gums display with a single trunk, there are others that have two or more trunks growing out of the base from the ground. Eucalyptus camaldulensis lack a lignotuber, so severe fires can kill the tree.

There are a number of subspecies of Eucalyptus camaldulensis including the Inland River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis subsp. arida).

River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Ormiston Gorge NT
River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Ormiston Gorge NT

The leaves of the River Red Gum are alternate, broadly lanceolate (of a narrow oval shape tapering to a point at each end – “lanceolate leaves”), to 11 cm long and 3 cm wide (at its widest point). The colour is a muted pale green, with numerous clear, yellow and green oil glands.

Between spring and early summer, white, sugary lerps will appear on the leaves of River Red Gums. These lerps are made by the tiny, orange nymphs of an insect called a psyllid Glycaspis blakei species. The nymph sucks sugar from the leaf. It consumes some of the sugar and uses the rest to make a white shelter to hide under, known as lerps (protective covers made by nymphs).

Inland River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis subsp. arida), Todd River, Alice Springs NT
Inland River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis subsp. arida), Todd River, Alice Springs NT

These sweet treat “bush lollies” covering the leaves of local eucalypts in Central Australia, are the edible Eucalyptus Lerps (known as bug houses) that are built by Glycaspis psyllids. The Arrernte name for these is peraltye.

Flowering in summer, the flowers are white to pale cream and borne in clusters of 7. Each cluster share a slender common stalk up to 2 cm long. The flower bud is about 1 cm long, 0.5 cm, wide, with a hemispherical beaked cap. The fruit is on a short stalk, hemispherical, to 0.6 cm long and 1 cm wide. The flowers are an important source in the production of honey.

River Red Gums along the Todd River, Alice Springs, 8 Jan 2010
River Red Gums along the Todd River (south of Heavitree Gap), Alice Springs NT

The leaves of the Eucalyptus camaldulensis produces a water-soluble chemical that is washed from its leaves during rain. The chemicals produce settle underneath the canopy of the tree and inhibit the growth of other plants, including the seedlings of river red gum. This is a phenomenon called “allelopathy” (and is a common biological phenomenon by an organism produces biochemicals that influence the growth, survival, development, and reproduction of other organisms within its reach. Together with the dense canopy of the trees, very few plants will actually grow underneath the trees. During flood water, the chemicals are wash from the soil, allowing for seedlings to germinate after floods. This process ensures that seedlings do not germinate when times are dry, competing for water with the parent tree.3

They are called river red gums because they are found growing along rivers and creeks. It is when the branches and trunk of the tree is cut, the wood is a bright red, due to chemicals within the tree that protect the wood, making it more durable and warding off some pests. The chemicals include high level of polyphenols that are a natural antibiotic.

Eucalyptus oil is used for a variety of products in the pharmaceutical industry from cough lozenges, mouth washes, inhalations and linaments. Whilst much of the oil is from E. globulus, some is also derived from E. camaldulensis.

This medicinal use was known by aboriginal groups who used the it as bush medicine. They would crush and boil the young leaves and use this as a linament, rubbed into the chest or used for joint pains, including general aches, cold and flu symptoms. The young leaves were also heated over hot coals, the vapours being inhaled.

River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) along the Todd River (causeway at Undoolya Rd, Alice Springs NT
River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) along the Todd River, Alice Springs NT

In more recent times the wood has been used for heavy construction, railway sleepers, fencing, wood turning, firewood and charcoal production.

Aboriginal Culture
The river red gum is an important tree to Aboriginal people across Australia. They provided many traditional uses from making bowls, shields and canoes, to uses in traditional medicine. The Anangu people in Central Australia used the resin from the tree, mixing it with water to make an antiseptic solution. They also used the burnt bark to combine with animal fat for creating an ointment for burns.

The seeds of the river red gum and edible grubs that live under the bark were also eaten. Sometimes white scale would develop on the leaves. These leaves with the white scale would be rolled up and eaten like a lolly, or the lerp picked off, rolled and eaten straight. During good seasons, the flowers also produce a delicious honey.

The river red gum also feature in the many works of Aboriginal artists such as the acclaimed Albert Namatjira, Ewald Namatjira, Otto Pareroultja and Gloria Pannka.

Common name
River Red Gum, Murray Red Gum, Red Gum, River Gum. Itara (in the Central Australia Pitjantjatjara / Yankunytjatjara language), Biyala (in the Murray Goulburn Yorta Yorta language).

Check out our Flora > Eucalyptus > Alice Springs River Red Gum.

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Phylum: Charophyta
  • Class: Equisetopsida
  • Subclass: Magnoliidae
  • Superorder: Rosanae
  • Order: Myrtales
  • Family: Myrtaceae
  • Genus: Eucalyptus
  • Species: Eucalyptus camaldulensis

Footnote & References

  1. Eucalyptus camaldulensis Dehnh., River Red Gum, CSIRO,
  2. Barmah Forest, Victorian Environmental Water Holder – VEWH,
  3. The river red gum is an icon of the driest continent, Gregory Moore, 12 July 2019 (Source: The Conversation), The University of Melbourne,
  4. The largest stand of river red gums in the world – Australian Geographic,
  5. The river red gum is an icon of the driest continent, author Gregory Moore (Doctor of Botany, The University of Melbourne), 12 July 2019, The Conversation,
  6. Eucalyptus camaldulensis, (last visited Aug. 13, 2022)
  7. Australia’s river redgums – Eucalyptus camaldelensis, Discover Murray,
  8. Biyala Stories, by Sophie Gunningham, Griffith Review,

Eucalyptus camaldulensis (River Red Gum)Inland River Red Gum

EucalyptusEucalyptus Index Corymbia aparrerinja (Ghost Gum) Eucalyptus camaldulensis (River Red Gum) Inland River Red Gum Eucalyptus erythrocorys (Red-capped Gum) Eucalyptus gamophylla (Blue Mallee) Eucalyptus infera (Durikai Mallee) Eucalyptus orbifolia (Round Leaf Mallee) Eucalyptus pachyphylla (Red-bud Mallee) Eucalyptus platypus (Coastal Moort) Insects on the Moort Eucalyptus woodwardii (Lemon-flowered Gum)

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