No matter where you look in Australia you're more than likely to see a
eucalyptus tree. Scrawny or majestic, smooth as pearl or rough as a pub
brawl, they have defined a continent for thousands of years, and still
shape our imagination.
Since time began Aborigines have woven myths about the abilities of the
eucalyptus. Since Australia was colonised, botanists have battled for
more than two hundred years in a race to count, classify and own the species.
This is the story of that battle and of other eucalyptographers - explorers,
poets, painters, foresters, conservationists, scientists (and engine drivers)
- who have been obsessed by them, championing their powers. Gum trees
have promised to cure malaria, solve the drainage problems that had defeated
the Roman emperors, forest the Sahara and divine gold.
Gum is about about a magical, mythical, medicinal tree. But more than
that, it's the story of new worlds, strange people and big ideas.
Ashley Hay's biography The Secret, the
strange marriage of Anabella Milbanke and Lord Byron, is currently available.