The eucalyptus family (Myrtaceae)
The Myrtaceae (Eucalyptus, clove or guava family) is an ecologically important family containing between 3,800 and 5,600 species.
Where they are found
A large number of Myrtaceae species are found in the wet tropics, particularly South America, Australia and Tropical Asia. Plants belonging to the family are often hard to identify and classify and it is estimated that a large number of species still remain undescribed by botanists. Myrtaceae often live in threatened habitats such as the Brazilian Atlantic rainforest, and so the race is on to learn more about the family while we still have the chance.
The Myrtaceae family is economically important in the spice, fruit, timber and pharmacology industries. Eucalyptus is widely cultivated to provide shade and for the timber and pulp industries. Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) and allspice (Pimenta dioica) are important in the spice industry. Bay rum (Pimenta racemosa), cajeput (Melaleuca) and Eucalyptus provide oils for the perfume industry, while antiseptic oils are extracted from Eucalyptus, tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), Callistemon and Leptospermum.
Almost all fleshy-fruited Myrtaceae are edible; economically important fruits are guava (Psidium guajava) and rose apple (Syzygium aqueum), with many lesser known species locally important for juice, sweets and jams, such as jaboticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora) and pitanga (Eugenia uniflora).
Explore our species profiles: the eucalyptus family
river red gum
Tasmanian blue gum
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