White Box

Eucalyptus albens is a small to medium-sized box tree occurring from south-eastern Qld, through the western slopes of NSW and Vic, with a small population near Melrose in the southern Flinders Range of SA. E. albens is widespread and often the dominant tree species. It grows in grassy or sclerophyll woodlands on a range of soils, usually of higher fertility, on gentle slopes and plains, broad shallow valleys and on the lower slopes of hills and mountains.

The glaucous buds and juvenile leaves distinguish it from other box trees. In addition it occurs on more elevated, stony sites than does the related box tree E. Microcarpa. The apparent rarity of E. albens at high altitude has been explained by assuming an intolerance to low temperatures. It has however been recorded at altitudes up to 925 m near Orange but at lower altitudes further south.

Although E.albens is a widespread and common tree within its range, the grassy woodland community of which it forms one of the overstorey species is highly endangered, with only approximately 0.05% of its original distribution still intact.

Flower buds appear in November and December and are carried for 5-10 months. Flowers are creamy-white, and usually found from April to November, the period varying with the season and locality. Heavy flowering usually occurs every 2-3 years, but variations in rainfall and other seasonal factors may mean suitable flowering occurs in most years in part of the species’ range. Seed collection can be undertaken throughout year, although summer and autumn is best.

E. albens is useful for medium to high-level cover in windbreaks. It provides excellent shade for livestock and dwellings. It is useful for recharge control plantings as it uses large amounts of ground water, and the large spreading roots make it useful in erosion control. It tolerates short periods of inundation and drought, and is moderately frost tolerant. The timber is hard, heavy, durable and pale coloured, with a density of about 1100 kg/m3. It is used for fencing and farm construction, for heavy engineering construction, poles and railway sleepers. It is also an excellent fuel, burning for long periods due to its density.

E. albens is an important species for wildlife. The flowers are an important nectar source for birds such as honeyeaters and parrots over winter when other nectar sources are scarce. The nectar is also a food source for gliders, native moths, butterflies and other insects, which in turn provide food for insect-eating birds. Hollows in mature trees provide refuge and nesting sites for many birds and mammals, including the Sugar Glider and Squirrel Glider, which also obtain sap from trunks.

White box is a valuable winter honey and pollen tree for Northern NSW and Southern Qld beekeepers. It is a major source of honey in NSW. Cold nights and sunny days are necessary for good nectar flow. E. albens produces large quantities of pale cream pollen, which is readily collected by bees.