The Snow Gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora) is a small tree or large shrub native to eastern Australia.
It is usually found in the subalpine habitats of eastern Australia. Snow Gums also grow in lowland habitats where they can reach heights of up to 20 metres, although specimens over 15 metres are found at high elevations in the Victorian Alps. Lowland Snow Gum is sometimes known as White Sallee, Cabbage Gum or Cabbage Ash. Similar but less common species include the Wolgan Snow Gum (Eucalyptus gregsoniana) and the Weeping Snow Gum (Eucalyptus lacrimans). The Snow gum is mainly found in the Australian Alps, including Kosciuszko national park and the Victorian Alps.
The bark of Eucalyptus pauciflora is smooth and white to light grey or sometimes brown-red, shedding in patches or strips to give a mottled appearance. The adult leaves are usually lanceolate to broadly-lanceolate with distinct parallel veins, but may be narrowly ovate. Rather than losing its leaves in winter/autumn, the tree adapts to the weight of snow by progressively bending its branches so that the outermost branches extend vertically down and snow is shed from the leaves.
Snow Gum, Australian Alps, showing the tree's ability to survive in deep snow
Snow Gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora), Australian Alps, showing how the branches bend rather than break with the weight of the snow and how this causes snow to be lost from the leaves Six subspecies are recognised, treated as species by some botanists:
E. pauciflora subsp. pauciflora, the nominate subspecies, with non-glaucous buds. This is by far the most widespread form.
E. pauciflora subsp. debeuzevillei, syn. E. debeuzevillei, the Jounama Snow Gum, with glaucous angular buds. This is found only in the far south-east of New South Wales.
E. pauciflora subsp. niphophila, syn. E. niphophila, with glaucous non-angular buds. This is found in the highest parts of the Australian Alps, straddling the Victoria - New South Wales border.
E. pauciflora subsp. hedraia, with sessile glaucous buds. Restricted to the Falls Creek and Mount Bogong area, Victoria.
E. pauciflora subsp. parvifructa, with small adult leaves and small, slightly glaucous buds. Restricted to above 900m altitude on the Mount William Range, the Grampians, Victoria.
E. pauciflora subsp. acerina, with glossy adult leaves and non-glaucous buds (smaller than subsp. pauciflora). Restricted to above 1200m altitude in the vicinity of the Baw Baw Plateau, Victoria.
Snow Gums occur as woodlands and open woodlands between 1300 m and 1800 m in Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, where they form the altitudinal limit of the tree line. The distribution of the lowland form extends a short distance across the Queensland and South Australian borders. Because of land clearing, few stands of lowland Snow Gum remain, and considerable efforts are being put into preserving the remnants.
Snow Gums regenerate from seed, by epicormic shoots below the bark, and from lignotubers. It is the most cold-tolerant species of Eucalyptus, with subsp. niphophila surviving temperatures down to about -23°C and year-round frosts. It has been introduced to Norway.
In Tasmania the species hybridizes with Tasmanian snow gum and Eucalyptus amygdalina