Botanical Buzz | Gum trees and treehoppers

Keep it calm. Whatever you do, don’t panic. That’s what I said to myself as I held the water hose late one hot afternoon and noticed something creeping around the brim of my hat.

While with the heat and my tired limbs I thought I was either hallucinating or being used as an airstrip by some micro race of interplanetary beings.

Yes, and I will be sure to have a lie-down and replace my Isaac Asimov science fiction reading with something more concrete like, ‘Practical Thinking for Dummies’ (Someone should write it).

It was gone in a flash. I took my hat off and let the hose dribble water around the roots of our Lemon Scented Gums in Oasis Valley, Elizabeth Park. They used to be called Eucalyptus citriodora until some bright spark discovered they needed grouping as Corymbia citriodora.

Just doesn’t have the same ring, does it? “Give me a home among the Corymbia trees…”

OK so I’m not being fair; a gum tree is a gum tree whether we change the generic name or not. And they can move very quickly. I’m now talking about the little fellow who was on my hat. Do try to keep up, won’t you. Leaf Hoppers are like miniature Cicadas; they are variously coloured, the gum tree ones being mostly black. All of them jump and some can fly.

Treehoppers are slightly different with an enlarged pronotum (upper part of the thoractic segment: like a spaceship Enterprise on their back). They can spread themselves flat on a tree trunk and blend in.

Although this can be difficult when the insect is black against a smooth-grey trunk. Maybe that is why they hop about; too visible, you see. (Lovely pun, that). Ants can farm hopper insects for honeydew, causing unsightly mould on the foliage.

Most of our Lemon-scented gums were afflicted with trunk split just above the ground. This distracted me from any UFO’s, leafhoppers, or treehoppers with pronotums.

Splits are caused by fast growth. This stresses the lower trunk especially in windy conditions. Fortunately most of these gums have self-healed. Recovery is good.

GUM TREE: A nursery stand of Lemon-scented gums (Corymbia citriodora).

GUM TREE: A nursery stand of Lemon-scented gums (Corymbia citriodora).