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Eucalyptus soon becomes a dominant species outside its natural environment

(Australia). Why? What are the special adaptations which make it successful?

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Some reading:
Many types of drought tolerant plant adapt to limit desiccation (drying out) by having very small leaves or even
microscopic leaves with the photosynthesis carried out by the stem. Plants in both the cactus family and the
euphorbia family have these adaptations.

The eucalypts have a thick waxy coating that gives them their typical grey coloration. The leaves hang vertically
to expose less area to the drying sun. They have stomata (pores through which water, carbon dioxide and
oxygen can pass) on both faces of the leaf. Plants that hold one leaf face to flat to the sunlight have stomata
only on the underface.
The leaves have a very tough leathery structure that makes them suffer less damage from wilting. These are
called scleromorphic leaves. All eucalypts are evergreen but shed part of their canopy to reduce their water
need in high heat.

Eucalypts are adapted to survive frequent fires by having an extensive deep root system to both find water and
store sufficient food reserves. They have lignotubers among their roots that store the food and have dormant
buds to grow back from if the original tree trunk is severely damaged following a fire. The bark is very thick to
attempt to prevent heat damage to the cambium layer the tree must have for vascular transport and growth. If
the cambium is damaged the eucalyptus can regrow from dormant epicormic buds under the bark or from the

What are adaptations of a eucalyptus tree?
Eucalyptus trees have numerous adaptations to enable them to thrive in Australia. The trees have poisonous fibrous leaves
to limit animals from eating them. Apart from koalas, Greater gliders and Ringtail possums, all of which can eat mature
eucalyptus leaves, Australia's native animals can only eat the young shoots of eucalyptus trees.

Eucalyptus trees are specially adapted for Australia's bushfire-prone climate. They are known as 'sprouters', which are adult
plants that can survive a fire and resprout from the roots or stems. They rely less on seed germination, which is fairly low
anyway, than they do on sprouting to ensure continuation of the species. In addition, many eucalyptus species have
lignotubers, which are specialised root/crown structures located beneath the soil surface, containing many food-storing cells
and shoot-forming structures. Therefore, the lignotubers of eucalyptus trees protet young shoots and provide food for these
shoots when they first emerge after a bushfire. Further, also seed germination is low, it is largely reliant on fire to stimulate
it. Many types of eucalyptus trees have hard, woody capsules that protect the seeds during fire, but which open after fire,
releasing their seeds.

The way eucalyptus trees grow is also an adaptation. Many species have wide, spreading canopies which redirect the
limited rain that falls down the trunk to concentrate around the roots. The leaves of a eucalyptus tree hang down, rather
than horizontally, minimising evaporation and hence water loss (transpiration), as they are not as exposed to sunlight. The
leaves usually have equal numbers of stoma on each side, unlike trees which hold their leaves horizontally - they tend to
have all or most of their stoma on the lower side. The leaves also tend to have a thick, waxy coating which also minimises
water loss.

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