The stately Blue Mountains Ash (Eucalyptus oreades) is amongst the tallest of the hundred-odd eucalypt species found in the Greater Blue Mountains.
Although common on the higher sandstone parts of the mountains, its quite limited range covers just a few disconnected pockets between the Blue Mountains and the New South Wales-Queensland border. These are all high-rainfall coastal escarpments, frequently wrapped in cloud.
In the Blue Mountains, this species often grows on the edge of clifflines and amongst rocky ‘pagoda’ outcrops. The smooth upper bark varies in colour from dark grey to ghostly white, depending on age, with fibrous strips hanging in a stocking over the base and dangling from the higher branches.
Ash trees were so named by early white settlers for the straight grain reminiscent of their Northern Hemisphere namesakes.
A tall and straight habit in eucalypts is often an adaptation to cope with growing in moist environments where they have to compete with other plants – notably rainforest trees that adopt the same strategy. By growing rapidly after disturbance (such as a windfall or fire), these trees hope to beat others into the light and avoid being over-shaded.