Saturday, 1 September 2012

Eucalyptus (Ευκάλυπτος)

Eucalyptus trees are plentiful all over Crete. They are very hardy trees that offer a lot of shade because they grow very tall. As you pass through a eucalyptus forest, its aroma wafts in the air, especially after a light rain on its leaves, as it dries up in the sun. Its wood does not burn so easily, making it a perfect species for planting in a forest. In Greece, the eucalyptus is regarded as a blessed tree because it is αιωνόβιο (e-o-NO-vi-o) - it never dies.

Among the eucalyptus species growing in Greece, the smooth-bark variety is very common in Crete. It has an interesting characteristic: it grows a new layer of bark every year, and the upper layer of the old one can be seen peeling off, creating a very pretty spectacle. The bark of the Greek eucalyptus takes on camouflage colours, like a military uniform.

Uses of the eucalyptus nowadays includes taking a bunch of leaves in winter and soaking them in a pot of water, which is then placed over a wood-fired oven (or a radiator connected to central heating). This allows its aroma to exude, creating some humidity in the air at the same time as clearing your nose and throat. This is especially important when a house is heated with fossil fuel through central heating, as it dries up the air.

 Eucalyptus bark - August 2012
Eucalyptus forest, Ayia village, on the way to Omalos

The eucalyptus bark is another reminder that autumn is on its way now and the wood fire will be burning in our house soon.

As it is the first of the month, I can wish you Καλό μήνα (ka-LO MI-na) - have a happy month. Greeks have a 'best-wishes' phrase for nearly every aspect of their life. Since most people have taken their summer holidays by this time and are now getting into the post-summer routine, another wish is also in order: Καλό χειμώνα (kaLO hiMOna) - have a good winter, although it is a little early for that in Greece...

Another unusual species of eucalyptus peeling bark cna be seen in the rainbow eucalyptus of Hawaii.

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