Grey gums glow orange while growing new skin

Yes, grey gums shed their bark annually - it's nothing unusual. What is unusual is how early, how fast, and how intensely coloured their new bark is right now.

The show of vibrant orange-coloured trees on the roadsides is prompting many people to ask - why?

Staff at Wingham Nursery and Florist have had two to three customers asking the question every day.

Tanya Sawyer from Wingham Nursery tells us that the grey gums, Eucalyptus propinqua and Eucalyptus punctata, commonly found in our area, need to shed bark to grow.

"They're a bit like a crab in a shell - they shed one skin and make another one," she says.

Normally the trees would not start to shed until February as it is then we usually receive good rainfall. Ordinarily the trees would shed slowly, revealing new creamy to pink bark underneath.

However there is no 'normal' when it comes to our weather patterns over the last few years.

The worst drought experienced in our area in recorded history, the Black Summer bushfires and, now, the advent of La Nina, have converged to bring about the spectacular display.

"Because we got the rain earlier than we normally would, and obviously they've been really stressed because of the drought beforehand, they've just gone 'yes, let's grow!', and they've grabbed the water and split their bark," Tanya said.

They look like beacons.

Tanya Sawyer, Wingham Nursery and Florist

"Normally they are just a pinky shade; they're normally not that bright. They look like beacons.

"They are orange because they've shed their bark early," Tanya explains.

"The underneath hasn't had time to weather. Normally they would peel a bit at a time and it would just fall off as it dies. Because it was such a big growth spurt with so much water, they just exploded instead of shedding gradually, and then we would notice the nice pink under the grey. They would normally be mottled, rather than orange."

Tanya mentions another anomaly - the orange colour reaches right up into the branches.

"Ordinarily it's mainly just the trunks that are noticeable," she says.