This page is intended to deal with some of the frequently asked questions about growing Eucalyptus in the UK.
Is growing Eucalyptus environmentally friendly?
Many Eucalyptus plantations can look like single-age, single-species monocultural plantations, however planting these trees can have distinct environmental advantages:
- Plantations established on degraded land or intensive agricultural land have been shown to improve many ecosystem services and biodiversity values (Bauhus et al., 2010; Pereira & Navarro,2015; Foley, 2005). A great many of our new planting schemes fall into this category.
- Eucalyptus Plantations deliver some ecosystem services better than other forest types or land use system, such as carbon sequestration and biomass production (Navarro and Pereira, 2015). Eucalyptus, with a yield class of up to 30m3/hectare/year stores many times more carbon than slower growing trees. While they provide very high soil and nutrient protection only outcompeted by natural and more extensive forest ecosystems (Navarro and Pereira, 2015).
- Planting intensive biomass crops reduces the need to derive biomass from more extensive woodlands so that they can be put aside for biodiversity and timber objectives (Bauhus et al., 2010). This is the concept of land sparing rather than land sharing. Land‐sharing (i.e. wildlife‐friendly farming/forest systems) and land‐sparing (i.e. separation of high‐yielding agriculture/forestry and natural habitats) are not mutually exclusive, as both are needed to balance management needs (Grass et al., 2019), but evidence suggests that land sparing is a more promising strategy for biodiversity conservation (Phalan et al., 2011).
- Just like any forest, under the right management these plantations can have rich, biodiverse understoreys (Bauhus et al., 2010) and there is evidence that insects are attracted to the rich volatile oils in Eucalyptus, which in turn attracts birds (source: Woodland Trust). In southwestern Europe Eucalyptus plantations have shown to be an important habitat for Goshawks, (Garcia -Salgado et al., 2018).
Will Eucalyptus grow well in the UK?
Yes is the simple answer, but like anything there are nuances to take into account. That’s why we recommend you give us a call before embarking on a planting scheme.
- Eucalypts are from the southern hemisphere and, as a result, they are used to getting sunlight but are bound by the constraints of water and nutrients whilst growing (unlike temperate trees which are often constrained by sunlight rather than water). Luckily we have plenty of wet and nutrient rich ground in the UK making for good growing conditions.
- “Relative frost damage, but not survival is related to the size of the young trees, with larger trees being more resistant. It is therefore imperative that transplants, through intensive silviculture, provision of adequate nutrition, are given the greatest opportunity to establish effectively and grow rapidly before their first winter, when they are particularly vulnerable.” (Leslie AD, Mencuccini M, Perks M, 2014. Frost damage to eucalypts in a short rotation forestry trial in Cumbria (England). iForest )
- Eucalypts have been growing in the UK for decades in gardens and woodlands and can be considered naturalised (Woodland Trust). Like any tree species, growing it and growing it well are two different things. Good species selection to the right site is vital: some are frost tolerant, some intolerant; some like to have wet feet, others drier conditions. The wrong species can mean the difference between good quality woodland & product and early failure.
What are the products and markets for Eucalyptus?
Like all tree species eucalyptus are cellulose and lignin based. Anything that other tree species can be used for, eucalyptus can be used for but, like other trees they perform better in some product classes than others:
- Biomass. The largest use for Eucalyptus in the UK is as feedstock for renewable energy, either domestic and commercial. It is very fast growing and can provide chip or firewood from year 4 onwards. Its very high concentration of volatile-oils gives it a very high calorific value so long as it is burned hot enough to ignite the oils.
- Timber. Eucalyptus is used globally as a major source of sawn timber for construction and joinery. In the UK we have concentrated on biomass but as the woodlands we manage reach saw-log size we will undertaking R&D to assess the potential of UK grown eucalypts to be sawn and used as high-grade timber.
- Foliage. Foliage from certain species and ages is used in large volumes in the floristry industry to add attractive and visuals and aroma to bouquets.
- Oil’s. In conjunction with Timber Strategies and Sheffield University we have been investigating the potential of Eucalyptus foliage to be distilled to provide essential oils for the health, lifestyle and pharmaceutical markets.
- Agroforestry. Used throughout the world as an important element of silvo-pastoral and silvo-arable and silvo-horticultural systems. Eucalyptus can provide height and shade with the advantages of a fairly light canopy avoiding over-shading. This is especially important in silvo-pastoral systems where good grass swards can be grown under fairly densely planted tree cover.
- One of the greatest threats to growing Eucalyptus trees in United Kingdom is cold damage. Each Eucalyptus species has a relative cold tolerance rating based on original provenance and UK source information, with the impact of out-of-season cold temperatures and the subsequent duration, critical to survival and the tree thriving.
- Climate change models for UK have predicted gradual warming but with increased disruption and variance to weather patterns there is the potential for impacts to successful establishment and ultimately, Eucalyptus trees thriving. Historic occurrence and frequency of absolute minimum temperatures will be a reasonable guide to the Eucalyptus species that will grow and thrive in any given UK location.
- Eucalyptus cold adaption is relatively complex and damage can be caused by air temperatures, duration of cold events, seasonal degree of hardening and soil temperatures.
- Using silvicultural systems that can be closely modified to landscape, elevation, latitude, soil types and targeted establishment protocols, will reduce the impact of future weather disruption events. Whatever decision is made to plant Eucalyptus species, land use choices cannot exclude the impact of future extreme climate events, such as flooding, drought, wind and sustained plunging cold spells. With any reasonable estimate of the suitability of Eucalyptus species to achieve successful establishment and acceptable growth, there will always be a risk element for the grower.
Which species should I plant?
Please contact us so we can consider the right species to your site and your objectives.