Eucalyptus mannifera, commonly known as Brittle Gum, is a well proportioned, sometimes multi-stemmed tree growing to a height of 10–20 m and attaining a spread of 13 m with a trunk diameter of 30–60 cm.
Its main attraction is its smooth white trunk, often mottled with patches of grey, which changes to a pink colour in late spring or summer. These colours are particularly pronounced when the trunk is wet after summer rains. The leaves are narrow and dull green, about 12 cm in length. The flowers are white and in Canberra are seen in autumn although in other places flowerings have been recorded at different times of the year.
As the common name implies, the wood is very brittle and is not considered useful for timber. All eucalypts have an efficient method for shedding limbs, as described by Jacobs (1955). For this reason, larger species such as E. mannifera should not be planted so that they will overhang dwellings. However, its graceful form and branching habit do make it an excellent shade or specimen tree.
It occurs naturally on the Central and Southern Tablelands of NSW, commonly growing among E. macrorrhyncha and E. rossii. It forms an important component of the natural landscape at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.
Eucalyptus mannifera is frost hardy and tolerant of drought conditions, growing in rainfall areas of 500–1000 mm per annum where dry summer conditions are often experienced.
In the Gardens it grows well in poor soils often containing large amounts of clay, or in shallow, rocky soils. Propagation is by seed which germinate readily and little difficulty should be found in establishing this species.
The attractive appearance of well-grown specimens, together with the tree's ability to withstand moderate drought and tolerate poor soils, make it a very useful tree for the home garden or street plantings.
Original text by ANBG staff, 1977; since updated online.
Name meaning: Eucalyptus mannifera
Eucalyptus a Greek compound from eu, well, and calyptos or kalyptos, veiled or covered, alluding to the calyx and/or petals which form a lid over the flower bud;
mannifera manna yielding, from the Greek manna, alluding to the white powdery material on the bark, and fero = to produce.
Jacobs, M.R. (1955), Growth habits of the eucalypts. Timber and Forestry Bureau, Canberra.