Rainbow Eucalyptus: Look, but don’t cut

The ever-changing color of the Rainbow Eucalyptus’ layered, shedding bark is best enjoyed in its living tree form.

Q:

On a vacation in Hawaii, I ran across the Rainbow Eucalyptus—an incredible tree with multi-colored bark. Does the coloration carry through to the wood inside and, if so, is it suitable for woodworking projects?
—Paul Tanenbaum, Columbus, Ohio

A:

The Rainbow Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta) is indeed a striking tree, Paul. According to LariAnn Garner, plant physiologist with Aroidia Research in Florida City, Fla., the variegated coloring of this tropical species is limited to the smooth, layered, and constantly exfoliating bark. Newly exposed, the bark starts as bright green, and as it ages, it turns to dark green, blue, purple, pink-orange, and finally red-brown before peeling off in strips to reveal fresh green underneath. This gives the trunk a colorful, ever-changing look, shown above.

But beneath the Technicolor bark, the wood looks and works like most members of the Eucalyptus family: hard, with an even, close grain; light in color, aging to a reddish-brown. But no rainbow tone. Given its limited growing range, the Rainbow Eucalyptus is too rare to be considered as a source of woodworking wood. If you’re interested in working with eucalyptus, consider Jarrah, a versatile Australian eucalyptus that resembles mahogany or teak. Or ask your hardwood dealer about Lyptus, a low-cost eucalyptus hybrid that imitates cherry and mahogany. Marketed by Weyerhauser, Lyptus grows in sustainable plantations and has increased in availability.

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