The Scent of Blue Gum
There are many colorful gums out there: black gum, white gum, red gum, blue gum, rose gum, salmon gum, rainbow gum... They are not the gum that you exercise your jaws with (unless you were a Koala), but trees in the Eucalyptus family. I have something to say about a specific species of blue gum: Eucalyptus globulus.
I've known and loved the scent of this eucalyptus for many many years before ever knowing what the tree looked like. When I was young, Eucalyptus ointment (dau khuynh diep) was very popular as a cure-all. Headache? No problem, rub some on your temples. Tummy ache? Massage some on your belly. Stuffy nose? Sniff some...the list goes on.
The wide spread use of this ointment was due partly to its pleasant, almost addictive scent, partly to the popular herbal medicinal approach, but mostly to the fact that ointment was the extent of pharmaceutical industry there and then. I could not find the same extract in the US (here, people have more potent, colorful pills to put into these lovely acorn pill boxes), but have access to its source. Blue Gum is abundant here. Every time I pass by one, I try to grab a few leaves, crush them up, and enjoy the aroma.
Eucalyptus was introduced to California during the Gold Rush, with the hope that these fast growing trees would provide a renewable source of timber.
People later found out that the wood was almost useless due to extensive splitting. Another annoyance about some eucalyptus is their tendency to suddenly drop their heavy branches. Despite these drawbacks, Eucalyptus have many uses (paper pulp, ornamental plants, honey production,...to name a few) which make them economically important, ointment aside.
I have many eucalyptus species in my wood collection, but this one is near and dear to me. It holds special memory of mom's warm hands rubbing my belly, trying to erase my discomfort with a bit of Eucalyptus ointment... Do you have a memorable experience involving a eucalyptus? If yes, I hope it wasn't due to a branch failure!