The river red gum has the most widespread natural distribution of any Eucalyptus species; from Geraldton to Grafton, from the Yorke Peninsula to the Cape York Peninsula. As extensive forest and woodland it forms the structural and functional elements of important floodplain and wetland ecosystems. Yet we know remarkably little about the ecology and life history of this tree: its longevity; how deep its roots go; what proportion of its seedlings survive to adulthood; the diversity of organisms associated with it and the nature of those associations. This tree has played a central role in the tension between economy, society and environment. Since the 1870s it has been the subject of repeated government enquiries over its conservation, use and management. We have now begun to move from a culture of wholesale exploitation of river red gum forests and woodlands to one of sustainable uses and conservation. The author traces this shift through the depiction of river red gums and inland floodplains in art, literature and the media.
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