Eucalyptus nitida, in family Myrtaceae; common name Smithton Peppermint. “Nitida” is Latin meaning shining or bright, referring to the glossy foliage. The Atlas of Living Australia shows some recordings in NSW and Victoria but most references I can find indicate that the distribution of this tree is limited to Tasmania. It is the only type of eucalyptus on Maatsuyker Island. I found a stand on the track to the summit of the island.
The tree can grow to 40m high and is very common in south-western Tasmania. It has rough bark at the base but smooth bark on the upper trunk and branches. The adult leaves are falcate, or slightly sickle-shaped. Those I measured were between 6 – 12 cm long and 1 – 2 cm wide. The flowers are white and the capsule is turbinate-truncate (top-shaped, conical and with an abruptly transverse end as if cut off). There is a good photo of the fruit on the UTAS website http://www.utas.edu.au/dicotkey/dicotkey/MYRTS/zE_nitida.htm
E. nitida provides nesting sites for the rare and endangered Orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) which has been recorded on Maatsuyker Island – “a small flock on Maatsuyker Island, May 1971” (Brothers 1979). From the Australian Government Department of the Environment website – The breeding habitat of the Orange-bellied Parrot is usually within 30 km of the coast of south-western Tasmania. They inhabit complex, near-coastal buttongrass (Gymnoschoenus sphaerocephalus) plains, moors and sedgelands, dissected by creeklines dominated by paperbarks (Melaleuca) and tea-trees (Leptospermum), and with patches of Smithton Peppermint (Eucalyptus nitida) forest (Brown 1980b, 1984; Brown et al. 1985; Milledge 1972; Starks et al. 1992).
One particular tree on the track to the summit is a special landmark. It contains the skilfully and lovingly crafted plaques of the lightkeepers who have served the island over the decades. This is a photo of the plaque made by our caretakers Roger and Meryl and installed in January 2012. It reads “Meryl Simpson and Roger Kanitz Oct 2011 – Feb 2012”. Click to see enlarged image.
From “Maatsuyker Island Conservation Area – Management Issues” –
Since 1968, numerous lightkeepers stationed on the island have inscribed their names on lead plaques which have been attached to a tree near the top of the island, known as the “Lightkeepers Tree”. As of 1992, 18 plaques are attached to the tree, including a survey marker. This tradition which has continued on to the present day, has considerable social value for those who have worked on the island.