Australia’s best eucalypt photos put spotlight on worrying trend

Australia’s best eucalypt photos put spotlight on worrying trend

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

A national photo competition is drawing attention to the beauty of Australia’s iconic eucalypts, also called gum trees, as an Australia-wide assessment finds almost one quarter qualify as threatened according to International criteria. 

The competition, which has received over 1000 entries, was undertaken by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub and is receiving support from Australian Geographic.

Australian Geographic Digital Managing Editor Liz Ginis said eucalypts were a much loved Australian icon and integral to many Australian ecosystems.

“Three quarters of Australia’s native forests are eucalypts,” said Ms Ginis. “They’re arguably Australia’s most important plant group, and provide vital habitat to thousands of other species.” 


Robert Davis from Western Australia won the flowers and fruits category with a photo of rose mallee (Eucalyptus rhodantha). Rose mallee was assessed as Endangered under IUCN Red List Criteria. Mr Davis said of his winning photo, “With its silver-grey foliage and its pendulous crimson-red flowers, Eucalyptus rhodantha is probably Western Australia's premier mallee. The image displays the contrast of the tension of the tightly held cap, and the gradual, delicate, unfurling of the red filaments.”

National assessment of every eucalypt

The Threatened Species Recovery Hub has recently undertaken a conservation assessment of every Australian eucalypt species against internationally recognised criteria used by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

The assessment is part of the Global Tree Assessment being led by Botanic Gardens Conservation International and was supported in Australia by Botanic Gardens Australia and New Zealand. The Global Tree Assessment aims to assess the conservation status of every known tree species on Earth by the year 2020.

Research team leader Dr Rod Fensham, from The University of Queensland, said there are more than 800 species of eucalypts in Australia, the majority found nowhere else in the world.

“Our assessment found that nearly 200 species, almost one quarter of all eucalypt species, meet criteria to be included in the IUCN Red List of threatened species” said Dr Fensham.

“Many eucalypt species have had a large proportion of their habitat cleared since European settlement.

“The assessment will help Australian conservation managers to better understand which species are at risk and therefore potentially guide conservation action.

“We ran this photo competition to raise awareness about the conservation of Australian eucalypts.


Mayu Kataoka won the features category with a photo of spotted gum bark. Ms Kataoka said of her photo, "Ever changing with the weather. The rain revealed and enhanced the depth of colour. It highlighted the bark's hidden beauty even more."

The judges of the photo competition were Liz Ginis, Digital Managing Editor at Australian Geographic, award-winning nature photographer Nicolas Rakotopare, and Dr Sally Box, the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Commissioner.

“Eucalypts are such a fundamental part of the Australian landscape we can sometimes take them for granted. These wonderful images are a reminder of both the incredible beauty of our native trees and of the need to protect these essential components of our natural ecosystems.” said Dr Box.

The quality of the entries received was outstanding and made the decision very difficult for the judges, who would also like to commend the following entries.

Commended – Whole trees


Ghost Gum. Photo: Ben Blanche


River Gum. Photo: Ben Blanche


Snow Gum. Photo: Charles Chadwick


River Gum. Photo: Christopher Grounds

Commended – Flowers and fruits


Darwin Wollybutt Photo: Carla Perkins


Mottlecah. Photo: Diana Cyrstal


Mottlecah. Photo: Sophie Xiang


Mottlecah. Photo: Maya Kataoka

Commended - Features


Snow Gum. Photo: Courtney Whitton


Snow Gum. Photo: Ralph Whitten


Scribbly Gum. Photo: Mileyna Cifali 


Snow Gum. Photo: Courtney Whitton


The Threatened Species Recovery Hub is a collaboration between 10 of Australia’s leading Universities and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, to undertake research to support the recovery of Australia’s threatened species. The hub receives funding from the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program.

Top image: Di Lymbury from New South Wales won the trees category with a photo of the Sydney blue gum (Eucalyptus saligna), which can reach 65 metres in height. Ms Lymbury said of her photo, "This tall, white eucalypt stretched high into the early morning mist, and the brown, curled, peeling bark beautifully complemented its gracious limbs.”
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