The Rainbow Gum (Eucalyptus deglupta) is one of the most beautiful trees in the world. That’s not just my opinion, but one that is shared by gardeners in tropical countries right around the world. Its colourful trunk makes it a spectacular landscape specimen in any garden. But it’s a big tree so really only suited to large gardens.
It’s the only Eucalyptus species that is native to the northern hemisphere, including the Philippines - hence its other common name, the Mindanao Gum.
After moving to the Philippines to live in 2010, one of the first things I wanted to do was to find some seedlings of the Rainbow Gum to plant in my garden. Despite it being indigenous to Mindanao, finding seedlings was a hard task, and it wasn’t until 2015 that I managed to buy some through a nursery in Laguna.
I planted five seedlings in prominent positions in the garden, and they grew really fast, with two of them already well above the height of the house. But I was worried that the trunks weren’t showing any indication of colour, so I became concerned that perhaps I had been sold a different species of Eucalyptus.
So I decided to check the structure of the leaves to confirm that they were in fact Rainbow Gums. Googling “Eucalyptus deglupta” produced a myriad of different images - and clearly many of them were mislabeled - but after spending some hours looking at photos on different sites, and weeding out those that did not appear to be from reliable sources, I concluded that the leaves of Eucalyptus deglupta were opposite. This was devastating because the leaves on the gums that I had planted were alternate!
The clearest photos of the leaves of the Rainbow Gum that I could find on the web were on the website of the Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute which showed not only that the leaves were opposite and not alternate, but they were much broader than the narrow leaves on my trees.
So obviously I had been sold another Eucalyptus species. I suspect they were Blue Gums (Eucalyptus globulus) or Grey Gums (Eucalyptus punctata) - both species that are native to southern Australia, not the Philippines.
Did the seller in Laguna know that he was not selling me Rainbow Gums, or was he swindled by his supplier too? (He didn’t grow them himself - he got them in for me from another nursery). It’s so frustrating when this happens, because now I have to decide whether to cut these trees down and start all over again.
I haven't made a decision yet because I'm still looking for another supplier of Rainbow Gum seedlings. For a tree that is native to the Philippines and regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world, it is quite extraordinary how hard it is to find (and the fact that 9 out of 10 nurserymen here have never heard of it!)