Species and hybrids of Eucalyptus and Corymbia are used in the cut flower industry for foliage, buds, flowers and gumnuts. The different market segments require different species and management.
There are four leaf phases in the development of a eucalyptus plant: the ‘seedling’, ‘juvenile’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘adult’ phases but there is no definite transitional point between the phases. The intermediate phase, when the largest leaves are often formed, is the stage used for most cut foliage production. Trees grown for foliage require heavy pruning to maintain juvenile leaf growth.
The most readily recognisable characteristics of eucalyptus species are the distinctive flowers and fruit (capsules or "gumnuts"). Flowers are mostly a mass of fluffy stamens which may be white, cream, yellow, pink or red, and the flowers have no petals. In bud, the stamens are enclosed in a cap and as the stamens expand, the cap is forced off, and the many showy stamens emerge.
Growers entering the cut flower industry are encouraged to do extensive research on the inherent risks and challenges throughout the value chain. Eucalyptus trees generally produce a large quantity of harvestable product per tree, but much is sold at a low cost, with only flowering stems attracting higher prices.
The wildflower industry, including eucalyptus producers, is a mature industry in Australia. It has an active research & development program that assists industry members develop better production techniques, works towards industry-wide standards and undertakes market development activities. The wildflower industry is represented by WildFlowers Australia, which represents a diverse range of industry participants, including growers, buyers, wholesalers, exporters and importers, and research and extension specialists.
Facts and figures
- Wildflower cultivation can achieve better returns per unit area of land and per unit of water for irrigation, than many other agricultural enterprises
- Growing wildflowers generally requires fewer inputs of pesticides, fertiliser and water than growing traditional flowers such as roses, carnations and annuals
- Various species of eucalyptus can be grown for foliage, buds, flowers or nuts
- The foliage and gumnuts have a very good vase life but the flowers have a short vase life
- Eucalypts are susceptible to phytophthora root rot although they range in tolerance to the root disease; myrtle rust may become a concern for growers if local conditions favour this disease
- The availability of efficient and economic refrigerated transport to market or export airports is an important consideration for commercial production
The Australian wildflower industry (including eucalypts) is located mainly in Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and south east Queensland.
Eucalypt foliage for cut flowers has been cultivated for many years in southern France, Italy, the United States of America and South American countries. Niche markets for the Australian product have been identified in Asia, Europe, the United States and Canada for both buds and foliage. Australian product has a market advantage when the supply from the northern hemisphere countries is in short supply.