Index | Search | Home

new crop logo

Eucalyptus microtheca F. Muell.

Flooded box, Coolibah

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. References


This tall tree, featured in the song, "Waltzing Matilda", produces one of the hardest and strongest timbers in the world. The wood is, however, difficult to work because of the interlocking grain. Unsuitable for construction, it makes durable poles and fence posts. Little (1983) suggests that the wood is suitable for bearings, bushings, bolts, shafts, frames, and wheel parts for heavy vehicles. The tree is esteemed for erosion control, shade and soil conservation in hot arid climates. Aborigines obtained water from the superficial roots, by cutting forearm-sized root segments, then holding them vertically, after debarking. Sometimes they blew into the distal portion to enhance the flow. Aborigines use the branch and leaf as a fish poison (Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962).

Folk Medicine

Reported to be antiseptic and disinfectant, the inner bark is a folk remedy poulticed onto snakebite.


Leaves contain 0.49% essential oil with cineol, phallandrene, and pinene. The bark contains ca 6% tannin (Watt and Breyer Brandwijk, 1962).


Evergreen tree 6–20 m high, usually crooked or irregular, 30–100 cm in diameter. Bark gray or brackish, thick, fibrous, rough, not shedding. Leaves alternate, narrowly lanceolate, 6–20 cm long, 1–3 cm wide, acuminate apically, basally acute, not entire, glabrous, slightly thick, leathery, dull green, slightly paler underneath. Panicles mostly near ends of twigs, short, branched with slightly angled slender stalks ending in umbels of 3–7 short stalked fragrant flowers. Flowers very small, the bud 4–6 mm long. Stamens many, spreading, white, short, 3–4 mm long, anthers rounded with small round gland. Pistil with inferior 3–4-celled ovary and stout style. Capsules short-stalked, hemiglobose or turbinate, very small, 3–4.5 mm long and wide. Seeds many, tiny, 2 mm long, blackish (Little, 1983).


Reported from the Australian Center of Diversity, coolibah, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate alkalinity, clay, drought, fungus, heat, heavy soil, high pH, insect, savanna, waterlogging, and wind (NAS, 1980a; Little, 1983). Trees will not tolerate fires, especially when young.


Widely distributed in Australia (except Victoria and Tasmania) in open woodlands, floodplains, seasonally flooded areas, and the edges of swamps, coolibah has been successfully introduced to Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, and Tanzania.


Estimated to range from Tropical Thorn to Tropical Very Dry (Little also suggests Tropical Moist) through Warm Temperate Thorn to Dry Forest Life Zones, coolibah is estimated to tolerate annual precipitation of 2 to 12 dm, annual temperature of 17 to 25°C, and pH of 6.0 to 8.2. Mean maximum temperatures in the hottest months are 35–38°C; mean minimum in the coolest, ca 5°C. It can withstand a few light frosts. In its native range it grows between 80–700 m elev. on clays or silty clay loams, often alkaline.


Easily propagated by seeds, seedlings are outplanted at ca 6 mos. when they are ca 4 dm tall. Seeds must be exposed to light during germination. Trees must be carefully weeded until they are well established.


The tree coppices well. In the Gezira, the seedling crop is harvested in 8 years, then harvested on a 6-year coppice rotation.

Yields and Economics

The tree may grow 3 m a year (in height). Wood yield of 5 to m3/ha/yr are reported (Webb et al., 1980).


Making an excellent firewood, coolibah is cultivated as such in the Sudan, for example. It makes a fairly good charcoal with a relatively high ash content (2–6%).


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update Tuesday, January 6, 1998 by aw