Eucalyptus first came to Portugal in around 1830; its expansion especially during the second half of the 20th century led to the rise of the Portuguese pulp and paper industry, which rapidly achieved a leading position internationally.
It was the Eucalyptus globulus variety that found highly favourable growing conditions in Portugal, adapting easily to the climate and soils and rapidly gaining increasing economic expression. Portugal was the first country in the world to manufacture paper pulp using Eucalyptus timber, an event in which the Portucel Soporcel group played a major role, since it was its mill at Cacia that first produced it successfully in 1957, making it a world pioneer in eucalyptus pulp production. .
The debate around eucalyptus has made it a somewhat controversial species, due to its high level of water absorption from the soil. The fact is that it has a highly efficient use of water. With neither long nor deep roots, the tree can regulate transpiration through its leaves, retaining excess water to use during dry periods, rather like a camel.
A fast growing species, the eucalyptus is also highly efficient in combating the greenhouse effect as a result of its capacity to fix carbon dioxide. Moreover, as it came from the regions of origin in seed form, it has high resistance to pests and diseases, a safeguard from its natural enemies. Thanks to its medicinal properties and the essential oils in its leaves, several eucalyptus varieties are used in pharmacy and aromatherapy.
Governed by strict legislation since 1988, eucalyptus plantations for industrial use are currently supported by sustained forestry management, which ensures protection of environmental and cultural values. The trees in the Portucel Soporcel group’s eucalyptus plantations benefit from clonal or seed technology supported by applied research unparalleled anywhere in Europe.
The history of eucalyptus dates back some 35 million years. There are over 600 known varieties, most of them originating in Australia and Tasmania.
The first known eucalyptus in the West, the Eucalyptus obliqua, collected during Cook’s expedition of 1770, was first described and named by French botanist L’Héritier.