As the tree ages the bark becomes perfused with kino that oxidizes to black and cements a rough, fissured bark that never peels or drops litter. The wood is heavy, red in color, and hard, considered by George Bentham to be as hard as iron. Bentham published the still-current Flora Australiensis in 1878 at the age of 78; he was the nephew of the more famous legal philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who may still be seen in his chair at University College, London, and who is trundled annually from his closet to preside over a faculty meeting. Since George’s day, ax steel has risen to the challenge; even so, a 2-inch cube will take 20 tons to crush (if you can imagine 10 sedans balanced on one cubical peg).
In the wild, the flowers are normally white, but most of those on campus have cheerful bright red flowers. Variety 'Rosea,' which has consistently pink flowers and grayish foliage, can be seen on Crothers Way along the north side of the Green Library. In 2002 the Terman Engineering Center squirrels learned to sip the nectar; they then carelessly dropped complete bunches of blossoms onto Panama Mall. The Meyer Library was surrounded by 88 specimens at the time of building. By 2000 there were 56 survivors, some very large, producing a shady environment. The 32 absentees met various fates including landscape considerations. Many of the replacements are cedars, which permits the virtues of the coniferous and broadleaf evergreen canopies to be assessed.
In 1968 there were 103 young ironbarks on Panama Street. Some were lost to accidents as time passed but by 2002 supplementary planting had brought the total back to 83. The shady avenue of dark trunks and red flowers adds a pleasant unifying touch to an architecturally challenged neighborhood.
About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005.