Outside the front door of the Devon and Exeter Squash and Racketball Club on the Prince of Wales Road in Exeter grows an enormous Eucalyptus tree. I have often wondered about the story and history of this tree – how did it end up here and how old is it? Yesterday I learnt a little more, Adam the current owner of the Club told me it was planted as a sapling by the founders and original owners of the Club Adrian and Anne Hansell in 1977 to remind Anne who is Australian of her home country. If we assume that the ‘sapling’ was one or two years old that makes the tree just over 40 years old.
Eucalpytus trees which originate from Australasia certainly have the reputation as fast growing trees – one of the reasons for this is that they are evergreens and they have the ability to continue growing through the autumn and winter unlike other broadleaved trees.
At the moment I am still trying to find out / work out which species of Eucalyptus it is – maybe a cider gum Eucalyptus gunnii? There are 500 species of Eucalyptus in Australasia but the vast majority of these won’t grow in the UK because they are not frost tolerant.
The first Eucalyptus to be grown in Britain was in 1774 at Kew Gardens from seeds collected on Captain Cooke’s second expedition. Interestingly Barnard’s Nursery in Bovey Tracey played a major role in developing the propagation of Eucalyptus in Britain and working out which species would survive.
Hopefully I will get some information about this splendid tree later. Next time you pass the Squash Club or go in – have a look at the tree and be amazed by its growth rate.