Walpole’s Biggest Export

Published by Simon Mustoe

Originating from only a couple of tiny areas in south-west WA, the Red-flowering Gum Corymbia ficifolia, is one of Australia’s most widely-recognised trees. 

The species name means ‘fig-like’, after its thick, oval and dark-green leaves. In summer, the trees flower with dense sprays of flowers. These are traditionall bright red, though there are subspecies with different hues of red, orange and pink.  

Gary Muir’s family became collectors for the Melbourne botanic gardens  

This famous tree was named in 1860 by Sir Ferdinand Jakob Heinrich Von Mueller (1825-1896). By 1853, Von Mueller was appointed government botanists and by 1857 was director of the Melbourne botanic gardens. He is considered one of the great botanists of Australia. 

After its discovery, and the fact it can be propagated easily in the right climates, it became a popular cultivar and was sent everywhere in the world. 

Unbeknown to most, it heralds the global uniqueness of the small town of Walpole on the world map. Von Mueller visited and stayed with Gary's family in 1877 and described the Red Flowering Gum as 'Nothing more gorgeous can be imagined than the flowering ficifolia  on the foliage amongst the month of February".

Everywhere from the streets of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, to Huntington Beach LA, Israel, Turkey and Cape Town, it can be found adorning street scapes and every tree originates from this place, making it one of the most widely-recognised and widely-distributed ornamental plants in the world 

Wildiaries • July 2016