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A tree to 120 ft high, sometimes taller; bark becoming rough and persistent near the base of the trunk but shed in long ribbons on the upper part and yellowish or white when first exposed; young stems dark red and warted. Juvenile leaves opposite, ovate to lanceolate, 2 to 4 in. long, 1⁄2 to 1 in. wide, tapered at the apex, sessile and sometimes stem-clasping at the base; dark green, often with a crimson midrib. Adult leaves alternate, lanceolate or sickle-shaped, 4 to 7 in. long and up to 1 in. wide. Umbels three-flowered; buds more or less sessile, ovoid to cylindrical. Fruit globular to top-shaped; disk prominent; valves exserted.
Native of Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, from sea-level to about 4,500 ft; introduced before 1885. It is tender, and of the many trees planted in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century most succumbed to frost. Notable exceptions are the three specimens at Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow, Eire, probably planted in 1904 and measuring 105 × 91⁄2, 105 × 133⁄4 and 95 × 12 ft (1966). There is also a smaller specimen in the garden, pl. 1945, which is already 72 × 41⁄2 ft (1966). There are other examples at Kilmacurragh in the same county and at Fota and on Garinish Island, Co. Cork.
In its adult foliage, flowers and fruit, E. viminalis bears a close resemblance to E. dalrympleana, but is perfectly distinct in its tapered, dark green juvenile foliage and also differs in its bark, which peels in long, narrow strips, whereas in E. dalrympleana it is shed in irregular flakes. Also, in the wild it exudes a sugary secretion from the bark and is for that reason sometimes known as the manna gum. However, the similarity between the two species is so great that seed of “E. dalrympleana” received from Australia often produces E. viminalis, or a mixture of the two. This has been Mr Barnard’s experience; and the plot of E. viminalis at Crarae was raised from seed of “E. dalrympleana” (Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 88, p. 333).
This species is widespread in south-east Australia and very variable. Generally it inhabits valleys, while E. dalrympleana prefers mountain slopes and plateaus. The two are difficult to tell apart and apparent intermediaries between them occur, especially in Tasmania. It is uncertain whether these are the result of hybridisation or represent the ancestral species from which E. dalrympleana and E. viminalis have diverged in some earlier epoch (Brooker and Kleinig, op. cit. p. 213).
The following probably belong to E. viminalis: Alexandra Park, Hastings, Sussex, 68 × 61⁄2 ft (1983); Kilmun, Argyll, pl. 1959, 75 × 33⁄4 ft and, pl. 1969, 49 × 31⁄4 ft (1978); Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow, Eire, probably pl. 1904, 113 × 11 ft, 118 × 143⁄4 ft and 110 × 121⁄2 ft, and another, pl. 1945, 80 × 61⁄4 ft (1975).
This species was described by Bean (B138) and Krüssmann (K50).
Rough-barked Manna Gum
Subsp. cygnetensis differs from typical E. viminalis in that the bark on the trunk and larger branches is rough (vs. smooth in subsp. viminalis) and the umbellasters have seven flowers (vs. three flowers). Chippendale 1988. Distribution AUSTRALIA: South Australia (Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Is., extreme southeast), Victoria (Grampians). Habitat Open forest and woodland in flat or gently undulating country. USDA Hardiness Zone 9. Conservation status Not evaluated.
The nominate subsp. viminalis is rather tender, but can form immense trees in favoured parts of our area: Johnson (2007) records up to 43.5 m at Mount Usher! There is no real reason to suppose that subsp. cygnetensis will be very much hardier, but it has been attempted on several occasions in recent years. It has died at Logan and at Lullingstone Castle (T. Hart Dyke, pers. comm. 2007). It is, however, very fast-growing (to 180 cm in the first year), so in very mild localities it has a sporting chance of forming a good specimen quickly and thus being better able to withstand frosts.