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Peter Erridge has turned from gums in the mouth to gums in the ground… he has even found his very own Pepperidge tree! Read on to find out more


fter 45 years in dentistry my interest in gums has shifted from patients to trees with the ‘gum’ in their common name. As a volunteer garden guide much background knowledge is gained about trees. In Britain the groups of gum trees are Eucalyptus, Liquidamber and Nyssa. The word ‘gum’ has been given to these trees as many of them exude a resin from breaks in the bark. A range of aromas are given off by various species of eucalyptus, for example lemon or peppermint, both of which are preferable to that from mouths with poorly cleansed teeth. The leaves from selected species are used by industry to produce a range of eucalyptus oils which are used in nasal and chest decongestants, throat lozenges, toothpastes, antiseptic agents, soaps and more. The food industry uses this oil as flavouring and for their antimicrobial activity. Eucalypts have been around for 35 million years mainly in Australia with some in South America. Fifty

Young eucalyptus foliage

Nyssa Sylvatica

Up a gum tree Liquidamber leaves

thousand years ago humans arrived in Australia and they aided the spread of eucalypts which subsequently covered about 70% of the forest area. These trees take up a lot of water making the ground unsuitable for many other plants including crops. In the 20th century the marshy areas around Rome were planted with eucalyptus trees to dry the ground and reduce the risk of malaria. Most of the world’s 900 species are found in Australia, the southerly

latitude of which corresponds with northern Africa, meaning that the climate of Europe is too cool for most species. In Britain only the

Liquidamber tree

Gunnii and Nitens varieties can withstand the usual outdoor winter temperatures. These can grow as much as 2m [7ft.] a year and reach 10-30m [30-100ft.] and are being grown for biomass for power generation. Recently among many seedlings, a French nurseryman found a low growing specimen, up to 2m [6ft.] which is now marketed. Annual pruning of this variety, E. gunnii ‘France Bleu’, creates a bush form. Surprisingly Eucalyptus bonsai kits are advertised. Eucalyptus flowers are rich in nectar which can lead to flavoured honey being available. The eucalyptus bark peels away in ribbons leaving the trunk with patches of new coloured bark. This creates the problems of a tatty appearance and discarded strips of bark at the tree base. Another disadvantage is that dead leaves are discarded throughout the year. Regular trimming back of young trees encourages new growth with attractive grey-blue foliage. Liquidamber styraciflua or Sweetgum exudes a pine-like resin. In the UK they are grown as ornamental trees in particular for the dramatic red colours of the foliage in autumn. The black gum tree has the botanical name Nyssa sylvatica and common name of Tupelo. N. sylvatica flowers have a sweet smelling aroma which attracts bees but they are better known for the spectacular autumn foliage colour ranging through yellow, orange to bright red. It came as a surprise to me that the Tupelo is also known as the ‘Pepperidge tree’, which has the homophonic overtones of the sound of my name! l

50 SUSSEX LIVING | September 2019

Sept 19 Gum Trees SLE.indd 50

23/08/2019 13:37

Profile for Sussex Living

Sussex Living East September 2019  

Sussex Living East September 2019