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What is a Water Gum Tree?

This is a close look at a water gum tree on the side of an Australian river.

Tristaniopsis Laurina

Tristaniopsis laurina is a tree species that is native to Australia. They are commonly called either a water gum tree or a kanooka tree. Water gums are part of the Myrtaceae botanical family and are very closely related to eucalyptus trees.

These small trees are known for their easy care but slow growth rate. They are a very popular ornamental tree and are commonly used for civic landscaping. Though they have bright yellow flowers, they actually have a pretty awful smell! But that doesn’t deter the honey bees in the slightest.

Kanooka trees can be found growing near the eastern coastline of Australia, and since they are very water-loving, will commonly grow along the banks of streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Their growth pattern is determined by the flow of the current, which also shoes the flood height of that season!

We really love trees around here, and that’s why we compiled a crazy list of 101 Types of Trees from all around the world! We cover different types of fruit trees, different types of eucalyptus trees, and tons of other trees in general! Head on over to that article to keep the learning going!

Related: Red Flowering Gum Tree | River Red Gum Tree

What do Water Gum Trees Look Like?

Root System

Since water gum trees are known to grow near water, this indicates that they develop shallow root systems since they don’t need to go searching for water. These roots don’t have very wide, which can sometimes be dangerous for the tree, as the power of the stream current can sometimes topple the tree over.


When water gum trees are cultivated they maintain rather short heights, usually only reaching 4 to 9 meters. Cultivated trees are considered as being either a large shrub or a small tree. However, when growing in the wild and in their native habitat, these trees can grow to be up to 40 meters tall!

Growth Pattern

Water gum trees have multiple branches that split low down on the trunk. This makes them quite easy to maintain and prune, and they tend to naturally keep a compact shape. A branch is quite thick near the base and tapers off near the end. Their naturally manicured crown makes them appear like a perfect tree.


A young tree will have smooth gray bark, and mature trees develop scales and the color of the bark will darken.

This is a close look at the foliage and flowers of a water gum tree.


Water gum tree leaves are between 2 and 4 inches long, and they are alternately arranged on a stem. A leaf has a very narrow width with a prominent vein running along the center.

Leaves have smooth margins and are a glossy dark green color on the upper side of the leaf, and it has a paler underside. This shiny foliage is one of the most attractive features of the tree.

How do Water Gum Trees Reproduce?


This is a close look at a cluster of water gum tree flowers.

Gum trees have “perfect” flowers, meaning that they possess both male sexual characteristics and female sexual characteristics. Though they are capable of self-pollination, this is not the only way a flower becomes fertilized.

The pollen of one flower can fertilize the same flower, the flower on the same plant, or the flower on another plant. Flowers can also be fertilized by honey bees and other pollinators as well.

A water gum flower is a very luscious shape, and the color ranges from being a creamy white to yellow or orange. Flowers are borne in short clusters, and each flower has 5 small rounded petals. They bloom in the late spring or early summer.

Though beautiful to look at, these yellow flowers are still fragrant flowers, they are known to have a rather unpleasant smell. Water gum flowers attract honeybees and other small native bee species, and they are crucial to the survival of these hives.


Once a flower is fertilized, it will produce fruit in the form of a seed capsule. These seed capsules are of a woody globular shape and are 6-8mm in diameter.

These seeds are dispersed either through the feces of birds or small mammals, by wind, or through the current of the waterway that the tree is growing beside.

Where do Water Gum Trees Grow?

This is a close look at a row of water gum trees on the side of a river.

The water gum is a small native species of tree to the east coast of Australia. They grow naturally from Brisbane to Queensland, through New South Wales to Gippsland and Victoria.

They perform well in areas that have subtropical temperatures and therefore have been cultivated in other parts of the world as well. They can commonly be found growing on the banks of creeks and rivers, and in rainforest openings as well.

What are the Growing Conditions of Water Gum Trees?

This is a close look at a mature water gum tree in a farm by the brook.


Water gum trees prefer soil types that range between being sandy, clay, loamy, heavy clay loams, or sandy loam. The soil type should be either acidic or neutral, and should also be well-drained. Soil can be either dry or moist, though they perform better in moist soil.

Sun Exposure

Water gums are tolerant of partial shade but will experience their best growth in full sun conditions. When they are first planted they should be planted in cooler areas to prevent sun scorch.

It is worth mentioning for either cultivation or street planting, that water gum trees are easier to grow when straight from seed, rather than purchasing a sapling from a tree nursery.

Water Level

These trees are water-loving and can handle flood conditions sometimes, though perform best with moderate water levels. They are semi drought tolerant.

How are Water Gum Trees Used?

This is a close look at the leaves and foliage of a water gum tree.


Water gum trees have one main use, as that is as an ornamental tree. They are very popular as a garden tree or a civic landscaping tree. They make a wonderful shade tree or an even better feature tree.

Though they are slow-growing, they are easy to care for and are a great specimen plant. They are also commonly used as a street tree, for erosion control (because of their shallow and dense root systems that help keep the earth in place) and they are a crucial bird nesting plant as well.