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Nature Notes - Desert Bloodwood Tree

Image of a Desert Bloodwood TreeFeatures

Desert Bloodwood Trees (Corymbia opaca) have rough bark and thick blood red sap.

Adaptations

They have tough leathery leaves and store water in their roots.

Habitat

Desert Bloodwood Trees grow on the plains and low rocky rises in the desert woodland, shrubland and grassland.

Flowers and Nectar

The Desert Bloodwood Tree produces yellow and white flowers in the cooler months (April - October). The drops of nectar in each flower provide a high energy drink for many desert animals including honeyeaters, insects and possums.

Pollen, Seeds and Fruit

Pollen from the flower sticks to those who drink the nectar and transfer it to another flower. Seeds then develop. A hard fruit called a gumnut forms. They hang in clusters all over the tree. The gumnuts dry out and open up and the seeds fall to the ground.

Galls

The Desert Bloodwood tree is host to an unusual female insect called a coccid. She has no legs, wings or antennae and never leaves her gall.  Hidden away, she spends her life sucking sap out of the trees veins.

Size and Lifespan

The Desert Bloodwood is slow growing and long-lived. Large specimens can reach 15 metres in height but are more commonly 8 – 10 metres. The lifespan of Desert Bloodwood is unknown but likely to be several hundred years.

Range and Status

The Desert Bloodwood range is confined to the desert regions of the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia. It is currently classified as not threatened and is a common tree in the landscapes around Alice Springs.

Use by People

This tree has been a supermarket, pharmacy and hardware store for desert Aboriginal people. You can eat the plump, green grubs from the gall (bush coconut) and grubs that live under the bark; collect honey or “sugarbag” from the hives of stingless native bees; make a sweet drink from the nectar, make carrying bowls from the bumps (boules) on the bark, obtain medicine from the red sap and collect drinking water from hollows and the roots. The red sap was also used to tan kangaroo-skin waterbags; the dead wood is one of the most favoured firewoods, regarded as burning with a steady, hot flame; fruit capsules are used in necklaces and as toys.

Extra Fun Facts

When times get tough the Desert Bloodwood Tree can drop off a branch to save energy. The wound in the trunk begins to form hollows when fungal spores grow into fungi, which feed on the wood and make it rot. Termites also feed on the soft wood while desert parrots dig the hollows deeper with their very strong hooked beaks.

Tucked away in a hollow, parrots, owls, nightjars, bats and possums can breed and shelter from the rain, wind, summer heat and winter cold. They are also less likely to be caught by a predator.

Compare with the Saguaro Cactus of the Sonoran Desert.