Ghost Gums occur as a component of savannah woodlands on flat or slightly rising ground. Corymbia papuana is closely related to three other ghost gum species, C. tessellaris, C. bella and C. arafurica.
All four species share the expanded inflorescence arrangement, which is unlike that found in any other ghost gum species. Corymbia tessellaris is a widespread tree of stately habit occurring in eastern Australia north of Narrabri, New South Wales through eastern Queensland to southern Papua New Guinea, and always has a well defined stocking of clearly and regularly tessellated thick bark over 1–4 m of the trunk then abruptly giving way to smooth pale bark, and coppice growth that is glabrous and has leaves 10 cm long and to 2 cm wide. Flowering occurs in October and November