Section One: The Early Years
FROM DOWN UNDER IT CAME
While traveling along the roads and highways of California, especially along its coast and inland valleys, one will see the usual oak, pine, and scrubbrush. Yet there is another member of the plant family whose presence is dominating and charismatic. Its size is lofty; its silhouette captivating; its smell clean and antiseptic like the scent unfurling from a medicine cabinet. Many think it is a California native, but it is not. It is really an immigrant from Australia that arrived as many immigrants have in this wonderful country, surreptitiously.
It is the remarkable eucalyptus of which we speak that came from the virgin forests of that vast land down under, Australia. It is as curious as that land with its pouched animals and mysterious aborigines. Its adaptability and its hardiness can be seen in its groves which cling to the California hillsides and fill the crevices of the landscape. It is difficult to imagine what California would look like without the seemingly omnipresent eucalyptus.
It has had a checkered history though in California. At first it was a tree of promise stirring the imagination, and then later becoming a tree of disappointment and ultimately disdain. In its homeland of Australia, it was a true friend to the settler supplying material for a pioneer's needs. Its almost mythical reputation came with the Australians to the California goldfields and with the American travelers who had seen the colossus in Australia.
In Australia, the eucalyptus has been the tree of folklore where children sing of the "kookaburra in the gum tree." Where also children and aborigines, enjoy the sweet flakes of the manna gum. Medicine is found in its oils which has been used to cure everything from an upset stomach to a nasty laceration. Doctors and primitive cultures have both used it as a healer. The eucalyptus provided the early Australian settler materials for buildings, implements, and desperately-needed fuel. Its powers, its versatility was virtually unchallenged by anything else on the Australian continent.
The purpose of this study is to tell the story of this amazing tree and its impact on California. There is an array of literature, both scientific and historical, that gives only segments of the story. This study is an attempt to fashion those segments into a tailored narrative that has clarity and imparts information to the reader. It is by no means comprehensive. The focus is on important facts, major personalities, and key issues. The documentation is provided for further research and study of this fascinating immigrant tree.
JUST CALL IT "EUCALYPTUS"
This writer has chosen, as others have, to use the word "eucalyptus" to refer to this genus. In scientific literature, the first letter is normally capitalized. It is some- times referred to as "eucalypts" to break away from the scientific form and to give it a more common-appearing name. This really hasn't stuck, but it is still seen in the literature. Also in this study, the writer has chosen, as others have, not to refer to eucalyptus species by their full scientific name, such as, "E. globulus" or "Eucalyptus globulus." Instead, the "E" or "Eucalyptus" is dropped, and the name merely becomes "globulus."
The first time that the eucalyptus tree appeared in recorded history was in Abel Janszoon Tasman's journal during his voyage of exploration. In his journal entry for December 2, 1642, at the island of Tasmania, which was named after him, a reconnaissance party reported back that they had " . . . seen two trees about 2 1/2 fathoms in thickness, and they measured from 60-65 ft. from the ground to the lower branches . . . " They were intrigued by the gum that was secreting from the trees and brought back samples to show others.1
The eucalyptus tree next appeared in William Dampier's 1688 journal written at Brunswick Bay, New South Wales. He wrote, "Most of the trees we saw are dragon trees as we supposed; and these too are the largest trees any where. They are the bigness for our large apple trees and about the same height; the rind is blackish and somewhat rough. The leaves are of dark colour; the Gum distils out of the knots or cracks that are in the bodies of the trees." 2
Captain James Cook was the next writer to make reference to the eucalyptus. He wrote on May 6, 1770 at Botany Bay, "We found 2 sorts of Gum one sort of which is like the Gum Dragon and is the same as I suppose Tasman took for gum lac, it is extracted from the largest tree in the woods." Writing in August 1770, botanist Joseph Banks, who was with Cook at the time, too referred to a "dragon" tree,
The one tree tolerably large with narrow leaves not unlike a willow which was in every place in which we went . . . resembling Sanguis Draconis . . . this I should suppose to be the gum mentioned by Dampier . . . also that Tasman saw . . . 3
There was a tree, Dracena draco or dragon tree, found on both the Madeiras and the Canary Islands that secreted gum. It would appear that the explorers most certainly had this tree in mind when comparing it to the eucalyptus.
The gum the eucalyptus secretes provides natural protection against insects because it literally drowns the menacing pests. Both Tasman and Dampier did in fact accurately identify this ecological secretion as "gum." But it was Captain Arthur Phillip who first used gum in reference to a type of tree. In a letter dated May 15, 1788 from Sydney, he wrote, "What seeds could be collected are sent to Sir Joseph Banks, as likewise the red gum taken from the large gum-tree by tapping."4
In his travels, Banks collected plant specimens, marked them, brought them to England and stored them away to identify later. The eucalyptus specimens remained untouched until a French botanist visiting England had the opportunity to view them. Charles Louis L'Heritier de Brutelle poured over the specimens and chose the scientific name of "Eucalyptus" which is a concoction of two Greek words: "eu" which means "well" and "kalypto" which means "I cover." The cover refers to the lid or operculum which hides the flower until it is thrown off to allow the flower to bloom.5
The operculum shape is different for each eucalyptus species, and this shape determines the second half
of its scientific name. For example, the blue gum's scientific name is E. globulus. "Globulus" describes
the shape of the operculum area which resembles a coat button, round or globe-like. It was another French botanist,
Jacques-Julien Houtou de la Billardiere, who in 1791 fully identified the blue gum and assigned it its complete
scientific name which is has been used since. In fact, Billardiere, while visiting Tasmania, was one of the first
to refer to the genus as "Eucalyptus" in the written word. He lamented, "I have not yet been able
to produce flowers of a new species of Eucalyptus."6
Eucalyptus is a large family having over 600 species growing in its native habitat of Australia. It is like the pouched mammals found there having a species for every climatic variable. There are small ones, large ones, bushy ones, and erect ones. One for every possibility. The eucalyptus species are grouped by common names mostly because non-scientists tend not to be very distinctive. After all, a tree is a tree and a bush is a bush. Australians group the eucalyptus into these common name categories: gum, mahogany, box, and stringybarks. Immediately one can see how really generic and unsophisticated these names are, but they do make clear enough statements as to physical appearance, and reveal how the untrained person views the species. Species of eucalyptus live in a vast array of local natural environments. Some are found in arid climates. Others prefer swampy conditions with its abundance of moisture. Some can exist in low temperatures while others will be burned by the frost. Some make there natural home in New Guinea, Timor, the Moluccas, and the Philippines besides Australia.7
The eucalyptus is a world traveler. It has been successfully grown on most every continent. Its fast growth,
size, and beauty are attractive features persuading the interested to plant seed. It grows best in environmental
conditions similar to those in its native habitat which is generally semi-tropical to semi-arid. The eucalyptus
has served humankind in many ways. It has been used as fuel and as windbreaks to protect crops, farm animals, and
buildings. Its oils have been extracted and used in medicine and in scented products. At one point in recent history,
it thought to alter the local atmosphere making life healthier for the residents. In 1868, the renowned eucalyptus
enthusiast from Australia, Baron Ferdinand von Mueller summed up the possibilities of the genus which lay worldwide,
"This marvelous quickness of growth, combined with a perfect fitness to resist drought, has rendered many
of our tree fame abroad -- especially so in countries where the supply of fuel or of hard woods is not readily
attainable, or where for raising shelter . . . we probably possess the means of obliterating the rainless
zones of the globe, to spread . . . woods over our deserts, and thereby mitigate the distressing drought
and to annihilate perhaps even that occasionally excessive dry heat evolved by the sun's rays from the naked
ground throughout extensive regions of the interior . . . affording shade and shelter, and retaining humidity
to the soil, serve other great purposes . . ." 8
Von Mueller is sometimes referred to as "the Prophet of the Eucalyptus" because of such exuberant predictions. Being a pragmatic scientist as well, he spoke on the eucalyptus' ability to stop soil erosion and soil shift. He described the method by which the roots decomposed rock creating better soil for crops. He also discussed the use of eucalyptus to halt malaria by disinfecting the air, and in the broader sense, to clean the air at large for healthier living.9 Eucalyptus was von Mueller's life which he avidly promoted worldwide in his writings and lectures.
NOTED WRITERS AND AUTHORITIES
After the British and French botanists of late 18th century had identified and recorded certain species, eucalyptus specialists emerged who were excited about the genus and saw great potential. One such person was von Mueller who was introduced above. He was the first of a line of "eucalyptologists" who wanted to spread the word about this (seemingly) miraculous tree. Baron von Mueller was German-born who moved to Australia in 1847. He became the botanist for Victoria in 1879 which was a position he held until 1884. He published Eucalyptographia, a ten volume work, which identifies 100 eucalyptus species. The encyclopedic work was the first to present the eucalyptus to the general reading public and to scientists as well. The massive tomes contained descriptions, illustrations, and enthusiastic commentary.10
Von Mueller studied and wrote about eucalyptus for over fifty years. He had twenty to thirty species to add to his published works, but he died before he could complete the effort.11 In 1902, there were only five copies of Eucalyptographia to be found in the United States. Lectures and selected writings of von Mueller's were published by Ellwood Cooper in 1876 to insure that Californians became knowledgeable of eucalyptus. "The Prophet" proclaimed, "The eucalypts are destined to play a prominent part for all time to come in the sylvan culture of cast tracts of the globe."12
In California, early on, there sprang up botanists and enthusiasts who introduced the general populace
to eucalyptus and advanced subsequent efforts on its part.
One such person was Ellwood Cooper who came to California in 1870 and settled in the Santa Barbara area. He took early note of the eucalyptus species already growing there, and could see the potential of such a tree. He immediately bought land and planted eucalyptus groves covering some 200 acres. His groves became renowned for their beauty and lushness. This was said in 1904, "One can stroll through his groves as through primeval forests. In the canyons, Eucalypts twenty-five years old tower high above oaks . . . "13
In 1876, Cooper published Forest Culture and Eucalyptus Trees which included a lecture by Cooper, two lectures by von Mueller, a paper by von Mueller, a description of eucalyptus species by von Mueller, and a seed catalog. The intent of the publication was to provide Californians with information concerning the eucalyptus and to promote its growth in the state. It accurately states on the title page, "The only Complete and Reliable Work on the Eucalypti Published in the United States" because it was that indeed.
Cooper was president of Santa Barbara College, a small private school. On the occasion of a library benefit, November 26, 1875, he delivered a stirring lecture on forests and spoke of his favorite tree, the eucalyptus. In his address, he argued that California, and alas, the world, needed the eucalyptus for the planet's well-being. He believed that a perfect climate could be generated by planting the right vegetation in the proper locales. To quote, he wanted to "moderate the winds, increase the rain, and we have perfection . . . How is this to be done? By planting forest trees."14
A successor to Cooper was Abbot Kinney of Los Angeles. He was chairman of the California Board of Forestry from 1886 to 1888 during which time he launched a program that resulted in the planting of thousands of eucalyptus. The forestry experimental station at Santa Monica was established by Kinney where he did many studies on 75 to 100 eucalyptus species. By 1910, he was by far the leading contemporary eucalyptologist who had published more than anyone else on the topic.15
Kinney had acquired wealth through tobacco interests and came to California in the late 1870's to invest this capital in land and agriculture. He knew Cooper and his work. He saw the extraordinary eucalyptus growing on Cooper's land. While chairman of the forestry board, he embarked on a program of distributing free eucalyptus seed and seedlings to interested growers.16 In 1895, he published his classic work, Eucalyptus, which became the bible for eucalyptus growers. It is a compendium of fact and information about all aspects of eucalyptus horticulture from discussing soils to which species to plant.
To gather information for his publication, Kinney linked up with a colleague, A.J. McClatchie. McClatchie had a very large microscope, and with it, along with two copies of von Mueller's Eucalyptographia, the two botanists traveled throughout California studying the eucalyptus.17 McClatchie later worked at the Arizona forestry experiment station in Phoenix, and published in 1902, Eucalypts Cultivated in the United States a scientific work rich in history and fact. At the turn of the century and shortly thereafter, there were eucalyptus specialists working at the various forestry stations and at the University of California experimental facilities, who published informative pamphlets through those governmental agencies. No research of eucalyptus horticulture would be complete without consulting those contributions. To name the more important authors: Charles Shinn, C.H. Sellers, George Lull, Louis Margolin, and Norman Ingham.
Next on the eucalyptus scene was Woodbridge Metcalf. For over fifty years, he would dominate the field.
He began his professional career in 1914 at the University of California, Berkeley where he taught forest botany,
tree management and tree identification. In 1926, he became the first California Extention Forester who strongly
advocated the usage of eucalyptus as windbreaks for citrus groves. Metcalf wrote and published essays, articles,
and books on the Australian tree and other trees found in California. In 1956, he represented the United States
at the FAO World Eucalyptus Conference held in Rome, Italy.18
One final figure to recognize is Max Watson. He was an extraordinary man with varied interests. He was originally from San Diego where he witnessed the eucalyptus boom early this century. It was a tree he simply grew to love as a boy tramping through the groves. As a young man, Watson opened a nursery in San Diego and planted many thousands of seedlings with his own hands. His nursery business brought him to the San Joaquin Valley where he continued planting trees. He took a great interest in people especially those who needed help. In his lifetime, Watson was a social worker, probation officer, and vocational arts teacher. Through an agreement with California prison authorities, he was able to hire prisoners to work in his nurseries and plant trees. Watson retired to San Jose where he opened still another nursery and an arboretum.19
"CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME!"
The gold rush changed California in forever. The Mexican dons would begin to fade from the scene eventually being relieved of their ownership of vast land holdings. The California Indian, decimated by white man's disease, would continue to disappear and essentially melt into the surrounding society. Present was the onslaught of brash and arrogant Americans seeking fortune and bringing with them different ideas, a different philosophy, and a new way of life. Thousands of American gold seekers arrived in California with the sole idea of striking it rich and to return home with their newly found riches. However, many did stay and bought land or went into business. California was still their land of promise. Australians came too seeking wealth in the gold fields. These hardy and rough-hewed people were very similar to frontier Americans what with their maverick attitude and adventuring nature.
They packed up their belongings and boarded ships mostly constructed from blue gum timber. When they embarked from Sydney or Hobart Town, they brought with them a mental picture of their homeland's landscape. In California they saw barren hills and valleys. They could visualize how their lofty and majestic eucalyptus could change such a bleak picture.
California vegetation was indeed bleak with one exception being the pine forests which grew at the higher elevations. There too were a few oaks, willows, sycamores, and scrub brush growing on the hills and in the valleys at the lower elevations. But the desirable land was virtually treeless. The Franciscan missionaries brought with them trees to provide food, but these orchards were small, isolated, and located near the missions.
When California became a state in 1850, the citizens of Los Angeles needed to fly the stars and stripes, but they had no trees to construct for a flagpole. Indians were sent into the San Bernardino Mountains to chop down two pine trees and bring back so the American flag could fly over southern California.20
The trees near settlements were used immediately for fuel and construction of dwellings. Oakland was founded in 1850 in the midst of a forest of live oaks. Shortly this forest would vanish. Oakland also had a forest of redwoods covering five square miles. Two very tall trees in the forest were used by ships' captains to guide them through the Golden Gate sixteen miles at sea.21 This redwood forest was used in the construction of Mission San Jose22 and in the urban development of Oakland and San Francisco during the gold rush. By 1860, all the redwoods had vanished. Gone were the 300 foot giants that had once stood there.23
To the gold seekers and settlers, live trees did not have value in any permanent sense and were exploited at will. For example, miners cut down trees just to find straight ones to be used in their "toms" and sluices. Trees were used too as instant fuel for fires to cook over and to warm chilled bodies. The early California wheat farmers removed trees to clear fields for their crops.24
In 1863, John S. Hittel published Resources in California in which he described California's bare terrain. "The valleys are mostly bare of timber, with here and there a grove of oaks, and lines of trees and bushes along the water courses." In regard to Napa Valley and its surrounding hills, he said, " These mountains, brown near the foreground and blue in the distance . . . "25 gives one a picture of bleakness.
Hittel writing again, "Most of the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, the Colorado Desert, the eastern slopes of the Coast Mountains, and the Coast Range south of latitude 35 degrees, are treeless."26 In his work The Natural Wealth of California, published in 1868, author Titus Fey Cronise gives this picture of Santa Barbara County: "There is but little timber in any part of the county, except oak, willows, and sycamore, which grow on the plains or in the valleys. The highest mountains being covered with grass or wild oats during the winter and spring . . . "27
Of Stanislaus County, Cronise said: "With the exception of a few scattered oaks along the larger streams, and a sparse growth of the same trees interspersed with an inferior species of pine found on the eastern foothills, the county is destitute of timber."28 These authors paint a clear picture of California's virtually treeless landscape.
It was during the gold rush, that the eucalyptus was introduced into California either by Australians, or by Americans who had been to Australia, or knew of the tree and had seed shipped in. Australian miners used eucalyptus oil in Australia in the recovery of gold as noted by this writer: "Diggers from our eastern goldfields (Australia), chasing the pot of gold at the American end of the rainbow, took and planted seed of those trees whose oil they had used in the flotation process for the recovery of gold particles . . . Eucalyptus oil."29
This seems plausible, but it does take time for the eucalyptus to reach a certain size to be able to produce a large enough volume of leaves from which a sizeable amount of oil can be distilled. Another problem would be the climate of the Sierra Nevada foothills where the gold was located. It is too cold normally at that altitude during the winter for the eucalyptus to survive.
A stronger possibility is the "strike it rich" concept. The eucalyptus is a fast-growing tree and provides firewood and materials for construction. This would interest most enterprising men. News of such a tree would have reached the ears of the miners or others in California from the Australians. Once the goldfields played out, these men of fortune turned to other prospects of gaining wealth. This colossus of a tree could be exploited for their financial gain, and it would seem possible to these redirected fortune hunters that the eucalyptus would enable them to "strike it rich."30
The Australians themselves seem to be a link. At this time, it was quicker to bring supplies from Australia than from eastern United States because American cargo ships had to go around the horn of South American, and The Panama Canal and the transcontinental railroad were not built yet. Shipyards in Sydney and Hobart Town, Tasmania constructed vessels made from blue gum which would ultimately sail into San Francisco Bay. These ships would be representatives of what the eucalyptus could do.31 A 90 ton schooner, it was said, was made from one eucalyptus tree! Imagine the attention and instant fame this claim would garner. Not only did the tree get a reputation, but the Australian woodcutters and shipbuilders who produce such a craft did as well.32
In Blue Clippers and Whale Ships of Tasmania, the author, Will Lawson, wrote: "These early Tasmanians were unusual men, their achievement and characters so amazing and the ships they built so sturdy that Time could not destroy them. When they wanted ships they built them, not always in properly appointed shipyards, but often in creeks or on beaches or river banks, wherever suitable tall trees grew. These big- hearted men felled the trees (eucalyptus), pit-sawed them by hand power into planks, beams, keels, and frames, to shape their vessels which were to brave the ocean storms and the dangers of uncharted coasts. And they carried the name and fame of Tasmanian ships and seamen over the seven seas."33
In 1849, over 2,600 Australians left Sydney for San Francisco.34 It took between three to four months to make the passage with the American clipper ships completing the trip quicker than the more bulky blue gum vessels. It was on one of these voyages that the first sack of eucalyptus seed was imported.35 Because eucalyptus seed is tiny, a small sack, which can hold several thousand seeds, was all that was needed.36
The demand for trees quickened with settlement because wood was needed for fuel and construction. Settlers from the well-forested eastern United States disliked the monotonous treeless landscape of California and immediately began planting trees near their buildings for beauty, shade and firewood. The eucalyptus could meet these needs quicker than other trees, and because of this and its enormous size, it attracted attention.
WHO WAS REALLY FIRST?
There is some speculation as to who was the first person to plant eucalyptus in California. Most accounts
seem to point to W.C. Walker who was the owner of the Golden Gate Nursery in San Francisco located at Fourth and
Folsom Streets. It is believed that he planted the first seeds in 1853 from 14 different species.38 In the August
7, 1857 issue of the California Farmer, Walker ran an advertisement with eucalyptus for sale. At the San Francisco
Mechanics Fair of October 1857, he exhibited three different varieties of eucalyptus.39 One can conclude that without
question, Walker was involved early in the propagation of eucalyptus in California.
Dr. H.H. Behr of San Francisco, who was a German native and a friend of Alexander Humboldt, had an interest in eucalyptus which he spoke of often. He had been to Australia twice, where as a botanist he worked with the renowned Australian eucalyptologist Baron von Mueller. With such an association, it has been generally concluded that he either brought eucalyptus seeds from Australia to California or had them sent to him. Dr. Behr may in turn have given them to fellow San Franciscan Walker for care and nurture at his nursery. Nevertheless, California had a resident expert living in San Francisco, in the person of Dr. Behr, who undoubtedly urged the experimentation of eucalyptus.40
Looking for real hard evidence, H.M. Butterfield did find in1935 an 1858-1859 Golden Gate Nursery Catalog at the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. It listed eucalyptus species as follows:
Eucalyptus Resinfera (Aus.)-- Splendid weeping forest tree. 60 feet. $10.00
" Argentea " -- Argentea foliage 20 feet. $10.00
" Augustifolia " -- dwarf 5 feet $ 5.00
Also noted in the catalog is a list of seeds received from M. Guilfoyle of Sydney, September 15, 1859.
These species were robusta, iron bark, blue gum, longifolia, nigra, and globosa (globulus?).41
Maybe it was Captain Robert H. Waterman who planted the first eucalyptus seeds in California? In a biography of this clipper ship captain, entitled That Fabulous Captain, one finds that Waterman bought land in Suisun Valley for his retirement and planted eucalyptus in 1853. He apparently commissioned an ex-first mate to bring eucalyptus seed to him from Australia. Waterman not only planted seed on his ranch, he gave some to his neighbors as well. The blue gums currently in the area are felt to be connected with these early plantings.42
Professor Woodbridge Metcalf, one time Forester for the University of California, Berkeley, and an expert on California eucalyptus, felt from his research that the first eucalyptus in California appeared at Oakland's Shellmound Nurseries and Fruit Gardens in 1856.43 Metcalf gives no evidence to support his claim, but H.M. Butterfield, writing in 1939, notes that the nursery did have eucalyptus seedlings listed in its stock in 1856 for $5 each.44 The owner of the nursery was R.W. Washburn, and from the evidence, one can conclude that he was one of the pioneers in the propagation of eucalyptus in California. Still another challenge comes from Abbot Kinney, who wrote in 1895, " The planting of trees of various species of Eucalyptus in California has been carried on since January 1856, when Mr. C.L. Reimer successfully introduced 14 species."45 Kinney, an important figure in California eucalyptus history, does not continue the story of this account in his work. Without evidence from Kinney or other writers, it is difficult to support this claim though one would like to because of Kinney's importance to eucalyptology.
Taking into consideration all of these accounts and evidence, one seems to conclude that Behr and Walker were probably the first to propagate eucalyptus in California. One can state, however, without question, that there were indeed eucalyptus pioneers on both sides of San Francisco Bay in the 1850's.
Soon the East Bay became the leader in the eucalyptus movement because of the availability of good land and an agreeable climate for the genus. Stephen Nolan, owner of Oakland's Bellevue Nursery, was impressed by the rapid growth and adaptability of Walker's eucalyptus so much that he commissioned a sea captain to bring him eucalyptus seed from Australia which he planted in 1861. He sold the seedlings and continued to buy seed to expand his eucalyptus interests.46 His 1871 catalog lists 34 species selling for 25 to 50 cents a plant with blue gum costing a mere 10 cents.47 The eucalyptus tree was a curiosity to most and were bought for beauty or shade.48
Involved in the early dissemination of eucalyptus were Bishop William Taylor, his wife Annie, and James T. Stratton,
who was California's Surveyor-General. Bishop Taylor, minister of Alameda's Methodist Episcopal Church, visited
Australia in 1862 while on a worldwide evangelical crusade. He sent eucalyptus seed to Annie, who planted them,
and gave away or sold thousands of seedlings.49
General Stratton got seeds from Annie Taylor and was the first to plant blue gum on a large scale. In 1869, he planted forty-five acres on hill land behind Hayward in Alameda County. In 1880, he cut down 20 acres to make way for an orchard.50 In 1870, Stratton won a $50 prize from the State Board of Agriculture for his effort in planting such a large number of eucalyptus trees. He kept records of his work with eucalyptus to share with other interested growers.51 In Kern County Weekly Courier of August 1, 1874, this appeared:
The two Australian gum trees . . . on James T. Stratton's place in East Oakland, have probably the largest family in the world. From their seed has sprang over one hundred and fifty thousand trees, and the seed of these are already over fifty thousand more, that is two hundred thousand children and grandchildren all told.52
Curiously enough in the column next to this article was an advertisement for eucalyptus medicine. It read: "Double Extract of Eucalyptus for Fever and Ague at G.B. Chester's."53 Thus as early as 1872, just two decades after the introduction of eucalyptus into California, the tree was making itself known even to isolated regions of the state.
Stratton, owner of the Gum Tree Nurseries in Hayward, W.A.T. Stratton, a nurseryman in Petaluma, and Major Locke of Pasadena were the biggest producers and distributors of eucalyptus in the 1870's. In 1873, James Stratton marketed 50,000 seedlings, and in 1876, W.A.T. Stratton shipped 5,000 seedlings in just one day. Major Locke supplied 200,000 seedlings in 1877. There was a shortage of seedlings because of rising demand consequently eucalyptus seed was sold.54
Interest in eucalyptus was beginning to surface too at the state government level. Its support in regard to experimentation and testing would be crucial. There was a section on "Australian Forest Trees" in the 1868 Transactions of the State Agriculture Society. Much of it was a reprint of a von Mueller's essay praising the eucalyptus for its rapid growth and size. The Transactions also noted that a recent botanical display by the society contained eucalyptus logs. It commented, "These woods generally are very hard and dense, and as they can all be naturalized in California, and many of them are already introduced, some facts about them have special interest."55
In 1870, in its biennial report, the State Board of Agriculture spoke of the need of "artificial forests" in California to cover the barren terrain. It was the duty of the board to stop any further destruction of the state's forest and to encourage the planting of new vegetation. To quote, "It is a matter of no less importance to encourage and foster the growth and cultivation of artificial forests."56
Further in its report, the board noted that California had no natural hardwoods which were needed in the manufacture of wagons, carriages, and agriculture implements. California's climate prevented any eastern hardwood to be successful in the state, but the board noted, "We have also imported and grown successfully some of the most valuable varieties of hard wood trees from Australia, and the timber produced from these is also to be equal to that grown in its native country." The board went on to recommend that a prize be given to the grower of "the largest quantity of useful forest trees planted during the year."57 The prize was the $50 awarded to James T. Stratton for his eucalyptus enterprise.
In 1862, a state law was passed to protect timber. It disallowed the cutting of trees on private land or public streets which seems extreme, but it was needed to stress the importance of trees to the state. This was followed by the another state law, the Tree Culture Act of 1868, which encouraged the planting of shade and fruit trees along California roads. In it the various county boards of super- visors were given the responsibility of coordinating the effort within their jurisdiction. Growers would get $1 per planted tree after the tree had grown for four years.
The project was not much of a success mostly because of a lack of interest, and there were some budgetary difficulties. Still it was a positive effort because the public was officially notified of the need of trees in the state, and the government was willing to adopt programs to help. The federal government too promoted programs to encouraged tree planting. In 1873 a federal law was enacted which gave 160 acres to anyone who planted 40 acres in trees and maintained them for a period of eight years.58
Towards the end of the century, one could already see on the California horizon lofty eucalyptus trees whose silhouettes resembled ship's masts and its foliage, the billowing sails. These mature eucalyptus trees were evidence that serious planting of eucalyptus had occurred decades before and indeed the eucalyptus did grow fast and was sizeable.
Distinctive individual trees could be seen like the blue gum planted in 1856 along Milpitas Road in San Jose by retired ship captain Joseph Aram. He retired from sea duty and opened a nursery in San Jose.59 It was speculated that eucalyptus had been planted as early as 1855 on the University of California, Berkeley campus,60 but documents do show that six species were planted on the campus in 1877.61 Other early trees include the eucalyptus planted by Richard Davis at the corner of G and 15th Streets in Sacramento.62
A similar debate occurs as to who planted the first eucalyptus just in southern California. Nothing conclusive has been established. One account attributes William Wolfskill, owner of Rancho Santa Anita, to have received seed from the Taylors in 1863 or 1865 and planted a dozen trees.63 It may have been Albert Workman, a native of Australia, who imported seed from his homeland and planted it on his Canoga Park ranch in the early 1870's.64 At this time many southern California ranches received seed from the government seedling and seed program which muddles the water some.65 The first large acreage in southern California was planted by Ellwood Cooper and J.L. Barker, both of Santa Barbara County, in 1872. They planted 100 acres with 150,000 blue and red gums. Near Los Angeles, in 1874 and 1875, the Widney and Nadeau groves were planted.66
The printed media played an important role in the propagation of eucalyptus by its articles, advertisements,
and promotional seed giveaways. The California Farmer became one of the biggest distributors of eucalyptus seed.
In 1872, with a $4 subscription customers received packets of eucalyptus seed.67 The magazine's owner was Colonel
Warren who was an acquaintance of W.C. Walker of Golden Gate Nursery. In 1875, California Farmer ran advertisements
for thousands of eucalyptus seedlings which clearly shows the massive scope of the rising industry.68 Pacific Rural
Press too was a strong proponent of eucalyptus and ran practical articles on planting, care and economics. These
two periodicals had an enormous impact on the expansion of eucalyptus growing in the state.
TO THE END OF THE CENTURY
The first publication in California on the eucalyptus was compiled by Ellwood Cooper of Santa Barbara. It contained a lecture given by Cooper in 1870 and writings by the famed eucalyptologist Baron Ferdinand von Mueller of Australia all which was mentioned earlier in this study. This compilation contained philosophical discussions of forests, especially eucalyptus, and information concerning eucalyptus species, planting, and economics of harvesting. Cooper was one of the first to plant eucalyptus in an experimental sense. He examined growth, soils, and environmental factors keeping records which he shared with interested growers.69 His ranch, "Ellwood," was near the ocean and typically rocky and hilly which gave his experiments a variety of soils, elevation, and localized climates.
Cooper began his work with eucalyptus by contacting Thomas Adamson who was the U.S. Consul-General in Melbourne, Australia. He wrote and asked Adamson for seeds and information about eucalyptus. Along with eucalyptus seed, Adamson sent some of von Mueller's written works giving Cooper permission to publish them. Cooper in return sent fifty copies of his publication back to von Mueller. This way the botanist Baron could be informed of the progress of eucalyptus in California and share that information with others.70
Cooper's lecture in 1870 at Santa Barbara College was a milestone in the history of California eucalyptus. He spoke of the importance of forests in general to world climates, and that local climates could be changed by trees. He felt California could have a "perfect climate" by transforming the existing one with belts of trees. He recommended that California plant belts of eucalyptus from 100 to 150 feet wide and a quarter mile long at right angles to the prevailing wind. These belts would occupy 1/8 of California's landmass71 and serve not only as alterers of climate, but as protective windbreaks as well. He reasoned,
Contemplate the beauty, the grandeur, the productiveness of the great valleys of the Sacramento, the San Joaquin, the Salinas Plain, and every strip of arable land in the state, with belts of eucalyptus trees . . . with such shelter, California would become the paradise of the world.72 It is known and proved that three fourths of surface will produce more, if protected by trees planted in the other fourth.73
Cooper felt that property owners had a moral obligation to plant trees to provide a better environment. Economically, he argued, they would be compensated from returns on firewood and from crops protected by windbreaks.74 His lecture was a stirring one in which he used logic, reason, and appeals to ethic and moral standards of the day. He strongly urged the planting of eucalyptus. He implored, "What shall we plant? The rapidity of growth of the blue gum, and the facility with which it can be propagated, is a feature of great importance . . . "75 He continued, "Who does not look with an honest pride on the beautiful creation which, with a generous spirit, he has raised up around him."76
Cooper supplied eucalyptus seed to interested growers such as his good friend Judge Charles Fernald, who in turn provided seed to horticultural societies and organizations interested in forestry. Cooper was active statewide in forestry and served on the State Board of Forestry and the Commission of Horticulture. His contribution to the preservation and propagation of trees was enormous. He had a special love for the eucalyptus which he considered to be blessed with promise. His excitement for the genus can be seen in this glowing proclamation:
He (grower) increases certainty of his crops, decreases one-fourth of his labor, beautifies his home, improves the climate, doubles the value of his land, receives inspiration from this work of his own hands, elevates his own condition, and adds to the refinement of himself, his family, and all his surroundings.77
Advocates such as Cooper and the printed media served as prime motivators in a movement that was picking up momentum. But there is nothing like visual proof for the skeptical. Now one could see the much-discussed eucalyptus growing in abundance particularly along the California coast and in the inland valleys. Also one could go to the many nurseries where eucalyptus seed, seedlings, and literature was available. For many, growing eucalyptus was a reasonably-priced experiment.
The Central Pacific Railroad took an avid interest in the eucalyptus. The railroad constantly needed materials for its lines primarily for ties, poles, posts, and firewood. The eucalyptus conceivably could produce these necessary supplies according to contemporary information. The railroad also wanted to attract settlers to buy railroad land adjacent to the tracks. The plan was to beautify the barren landscape with fast-growing eucalyptus as an enticement.
In 1877, Assistant Chief Engineer for the Central Pacific Railroad, J.D. Scupham, bought 40,000 eucalyptus seedlings, mostly blue gum, from nurseries in Oakland and Hayward. The railroad planted the seedlings in the San Joaquin Valley and in some instances near wells as an attraction to settlers. The next year, 250,000 seedlings were bought from Locke of Pasadena and 300,000 from George Baxter of Hayward. In the two year planting program, the railroad planted about one million trees. The program was a bust though. Soon it was discovered that eucalyptus ties would crack and check if not seasoned properly. These ties could not hold a spike in place securely which was obviously of great importance to track stability. The eucalyptus wood also rotted away easily.78 Thus ended the first real experiment of eucalyptus for an industrial purpose. Decades later the Santa Fe Railroad would curiously repeat the exact same experience. Government agencies continued their support of eucalyptus through their informative literature and seed distribution programs. For example, the State Forestry Commission sold seeds at a very low price of the better eucalyptus species. The University of California had a program of offering free seed to interested growers.79 Experiment stations were also established by the government.
In 1887, the State Board of Forestry received land donations on which to build experiment stations.80 Experiment stations were instituted at Santa Monica, Chico, Merced, Hesperia, San Jacinto, and Lake Hemet. At the Santa Monica station one could buy eucalyptus seedlings for $3 or $4. This program was primarily designed to stimulate interest at the local nurseries. It was believed generally that eucalyptus could be grown for profit, and all that was needed was encouragement in the right places. It was reported that in 1890, the Santa Monica station distributed 76,000 eucalyptus seedlings to 421 interested growers. This station was experimenting with 55 eucalyptus species.81
In 1887, the State Board of Forestry was disbanded, and its authority and experimental stations were transferred to the College of Agriculture at the University of California, Berkeley. The college dean was E.W. Hilgard who distributed eucalyptus seed and seedlings of various species to the public. By 1900 the college was the authority on eucalyptus in California. Work at the experiment stations continued with Santa Monica and Chico stations being the most active.82
Municipalities took an interest in eucalyptus. Trees were planted for shade and to beautify parks and streets. In the 1880's, San Francisco's Mayor Adolph Sutro, along with local school children, planted eucalyptus on Arbor Days at the Presidio, Sutro Forest, Mount Davidson, and Yerba Buena Island.83 Over 300,000 trees were planted in Golden Gate Park by John McLaren, many which were eucalyptus.84
Abbot Kinney of Santa Monica made major contributions to the propagation of the eucalyptus. He served as the chairman of the State Forestry Bureau from 1886 to 1888, and as State Forester, he distributed an untold quantity of free eucalyptus seeds and seedlings throughout the state. His only request was that growers keep records which would serve as information for prospective growers.
Kinney served as roadmaster in the Santa Monica area where he lined the roads with eucalyptus and planted a multitude of seedlings on his ranches in Santa Monica and San Gabriel Valley. He lectured and published a very important work in 1895 with the simple title of Eucalyptus.85 It was the most comprehensive treatment at the time containing instructions on planting and care of eucalyptus with accounts on experiments and detailed descriptions of species. It was an encyclopedic document.
By the end of the nineteenth century, California had been fully invaded by the eucalyptus. It could be seen most anywhere in the state where climate permitted. It was being used for fuel, windbreaks, medicines, shade, and beautification. Writing in Out West in 1904, Alfred McClatchie observes, "Without the Eucalyptus, California would be a very different state. What she owes to them it is impossible to fully estimate. Nothing short of being entirely deprived of these trees would enable her citizens to realize how much their presence means. Without them, landscapes now varied and softened by their presence would be comparatively monotonous and unattractive. Winds would sweep unchecked over regions where their progress is now impeded by avenues and groves of Eucalypts. Orchards that in the shelter of Eucalypts are profitable would be unproductive. Had not these trees been introduced, the fuel problem would be a very different one. Were some agency to destroy all the Eucalypts now growing in California, the price of real estate would fall at once.".86
The whole eucalyptus tree could be used from its roots to its crown, from its bark to its foliage. It not only provided fuel, windbreaks, medicine, shade and beauty, it also was lumber for implements, nectar for bees, pulp for paper, and chemical for boiler cleaning. When cut down, the eucalyptus would resprout providing yet another crop of products within a few years. It appeared to be a miracle tree only limited by one's imagination. It created an excitement leading to a surge of interest that would become the boom of 1905 to 1912.
Waxing poetic, California writer Lawrence Clark Powell speaking at Mills College, with its eucalyptus groves, cooed, " . . . no tree is more beautiful in the wind or against the sky, and none provides better nesting for the soft-voiced mourning dove. As for firewood, the bittersweet smell of this wood is evidence of a non-sparking blaze almost as slow-burning oak."87
But not everyone was enchanted by the genus, and the numbers would grow when soon its true economic value would be revealed. These disgruntled individuals would disdainfully refer to the eucalyptus as the "Australian weed." In this passage from Old Calabria, novelist Norman Douglas vents his disgust on the wonder tree:
A single eucalyptus can ruin the faire landscape. No plant on earth rustles such a horribly metalic fashion when the wind blows through these everlasting withered branches; the noise chills on the marrow; it is like the sibilant chant of ghosts. Its oil is called "medicine" only because it happens to smell rather nasty; it is worthless timber, objectionable in form and hue -- objectionable above all things, in its perverse, and inhuman habits. What other tree would have the effrontery to turn the sharp edge of its leaves -- as if these were not narrow enough already! of their minimum of shade and maximum discomfort to mandkind?88
FROM RAG TO RICHES, MAYBE?
Many of the eucalyptus trees seen today in California base their existence on the eucalyptus boom of 1905-1912, during which time, large eucalyptus plantations were created with the hope of reaping sizeable profits. The tree promised much. Its rapid growth and size were well-known. Californians had developed valuable uses for it. It was promoted by the print media, government, the University, and enthusiasts who gave lectures and published essays on it. It was a rising star that received yet another boost in 1907. The U.S. Forest Service issued a report entitled "The Waning Hardwood Supply and the Appalachian Forests." The eucalyptus is a hardwood which could fill this void.
In the 1870 Biennial Report of the State Board of Agriculture, there was a discussion concerning the need of hardwood in California. Californians already had to import hardwood from eastern United States and Australia because none grew in the state. The report encouraged the planting of "artificial forests" to meet this need.89 At this time, Ellwood Cooper was clamoring for the same activity, and he was trying to show the economic viability of eucalyptus with the hope that it would meet the hardwood needs of the state in the future.
Building on this idea in 1888, George McGillivrey published an article in Overland Monthly entitled "The Economic Value of the Eucalyptus" in which he presented the many possible products the eucalyptus could produce. He based his pitch on the manufacturing done in Australia; however, this was manufacturing that utilized centuries-old eucalyptus instead of young trees which is a crucial distinction. McGillivrey went on to praise the adaptability of the eucalyptus to California and the possibilities of its many species. It was quite simple to him. Just plant eucalyptus and "while quietly the forest advances almost without expenditure and care, its wood treasures increase from year to year without taxing the patience of generations."90 He summarizes, "The propagation of Eucalyptus is easy, rapid, and inexpensive."91 Who could argue differently after seeing the process and its living results.
With articulate men in the eucalyptus industry praising the value of the tree, and with government and the University supporting the effort, anyone with some interest and finances could easily be persuaded to invest in the industry that was still in its infancy. It looked like an investment too good to pass up to any intelligent person.
Abbot Kinney added more wood to the eucalyptus fire with his advocacy in lecture, publication, and experimentation. He was considered an eucalyptus authority and a sensible businessman. In many ways, he was model of what others could do if they too became active in the industry. He had records of positive results from his eucalyptus farming and spoke eagerly on the subject.
On the eve of the eucalyptus boom, Alfred James McClatchie, horticulturalist at the Arizona Experimental Station in Phoenix, published a U.S. Bureau of Forestry bulletin entitled "Eucalypts Cultivated in the United States." This 1902 document was chock-filled with history, discussion of horticultural techniques and uses of eucalyptus. It was an impressive publication of information and encouragement where every part of the eucalyptus seemed to have a use and solid economic value. McClatchie reduced and summarized much of the bulletin in two articles he published in 1904 in Out West, a widely circulated magazine. In Out West he wrote, "The Eucalypts serve a greater value of useful purposes than the trees of any other genus existing on the globe today."92 This was the attitude of most heading into the boom. The eucalyptus boom got immediate support from the 1907 U.S. Forest Service circular with the title "The Waning Hardwood Supply and the Appalachian Forests," written by William L. Hall which was mentioned before. It was a frank discussion of the shrinking supply of hardwood so needed by many industries in the United States. It was a scary report that received wide publicity. In it, Hall presented the facts concerning the remaining hardwood supply in each Appalachian state. It was bleak. Harvested amounts were falling off, but there was also a decline in demand. Nevertheless, something had to be done to fill the gap. Hall wrote at the end of the circular:
The inevitable conclusion is that there are lean years close ahead in the use of hardwood timber. There is sure to be gap between the supply which exists and the supply which will have to be provided. How large that gap will be depends upon how soon and how effectively we begin to make provision for the future supply. The present indications are that in spite of the best we can do there will be a shortage of hardwoods running through at least fifteen years.93
Hall felt though that softwood, metal, and concrete would replace hardwood eventually in many instances.94 To demonstrate the alarm produced by the report, one author grimly records, "History shows that following in the wake of timber exhaustion, invariably will be found decaying civilization, race, disintegration, national corruption and dissolution."95 Hoping to circumvent any such demise, there were investors digging deeply into their pockets to finance an answer. The miraculous eucalyptus seemed to be the solution to many though Hall made no mention of it in his report.
The rush was on. There were a flurry of articles expressing the importance of eucalyptus in the hardwood question. George Peavy, beginning in 1909, wrote a series of articles for the California Weekly entitled "Eucalyptus in California," which were designed to enrich and encourage those involved in the eucalyptus industry. He reported that there were "fully one hundred companies engaged either in planting eucalyptus seedlings, contracting to plant acreage, selling acreage in prospective plantations, or selling stock in companies whose avowed object is to plant, care for, and harvest the product of eucalyptus plantations."96 There now was a full-blown eucalyptus industry in California.
Peavy believed there to be a market for eucalyptus hardwood because the amount of hardwood harvested from 1899 to 1906 had decreased by 15.3%. But was this because of decrease in demand or decrease in availability? It was the former, but Peavy still expected that the eucalyptus would be a major supplier of hardwood soon because of its rapid growth. To be successful in the market place, he highly recommended that the eucalyptus grower be scientific by selecting the proper species and land.97
State Forester, George Lull, published two articles in 1909 and a circular for the State Board of Forestry. His articles appeared in Grizzly Bear and the California Weekly. His approach to the eucalyptus boom was cautionary but still supportive. This could be by virtue of his position in which a more conservative stance was expected. He did feel that the eucalyptus could play a key role in the hardwood shortage. Lull did warn though, just like Peavy, that to be successful it was necessary to plan, develop, and care for land and trees scientifically.98
In any industrial boom, there is always the problem of the unscrupulous schemer those who will distort fact to gain profit. Promotional literature from eucalyptus companies came under scrutiny. Lull urged interested investors to compare the information in the companies' prospectuses to the studies found in government publications especially on eucalyptus growth and harvest yield. There were a few eucalyptus companies that were investigated by authorities concerning their ethics. A committee of real estate agents and foresters was created in Los Angeles just to review promotional literature.99
It was this statement made by Lull which got him into some difficulty: It would appear to require no wizard's mind to foresee that this State will become, within the next twenty years, the base of hardwood supplies and the home of the hardwood manufacturers. If such should be the case the long-despised eucalypts will be
greater wealth-producers than the orange or any other of California's famous crops.100
He also commented that eucalyptus was similar to oak and hickory as a hardwood. It was felt by his critics that he had overstepped his bounds because such commentary would invite wildcat investments throwing the industry into a whirlwind of gluttonous activity. It was felt that control was needed not chaos in the fragile infant industry.
Lull continued to take what he thought was a reasonable stance on the issue. He even criticized Peavy in a letter he wrote to California Weekly concerning Peavy's statistics. He indicated that Peavy had used 1903 figures in his article which did not apply in 1909. Lull was trying to make it known, even though he had been overzealous in his prediction, that the government wanted growers and investors to move cautiously and verify information before plunging forward.101
The federal government got involved in the issue. In 1910, H.S. Betts and C. Stowell Smith authored an U.S. Forest Service circular with the title "Utilization of California Eucalypts." The circular warned the public of the possibility of being misled by published statistics which over-projected yields and profits. It wanted it to be clearly known that the Forest Service was still uncertain that the eucalyptus would bring in the returns the industry was expecting.102
The reason for this caution and guarded skepticism can be seen in this comment from the authors Betts and Smith: " The problem utilizing eucalyptus wood readily without undue waste is a difficult one because of its tendency to warp, shrink, and check during drying."103
They went on to note that the promise of eucalyptus in California was based on the old virgin forests of Australia. This was a mistake as the young trees being harvested in California could not compared in quality to the centuries-old eucalyptus timber of Australia. It reacted differently to harvest. The older trees didn't split or warp as the infant California crop did. There was a vast difference between the two, and this would doom the California eucalyptus industry.104
Having looked at the publications by authorities whose views had a great impact on the eucalyptus boom and also its demise, let's dip into the boom itself and see first-hand its frenzied activity. Knowledge of the eucalyptus had already spread across the United States. Those in forestry circles knew it was a fast-growing tree that could provide strong and durable wood if given the proper treatment. In California some had grown eucalyptus on prime agriculture land with excellent results. The government had done tests on certain species to determine its strength and durability. Those results were admirable. Eucalyptus simply showed great promise.
Eastern furniture companies, aware of the shrinking hardwood supply, and having heard about the eucalyptus industry in California, wanted to relocate in the West. Charles Glum, representing a large Philadelphia furniture company, commented: "We have been on the coast for several weeks, with the view of acquiring lands for the growing of the red Eucalyptus tree . . . I am of the opinion that the gum is a harder wood and is more suitable for furniture purposes . . . It will be necessary to move our factories to this coast . . . In fact, all the large eastern manufacturers are working along the same lines."105
In 1907, the first nursery that was exclusively eucalyptus, produced 600,000 seedlings in its first year. By 1911, all eucalyptus nurseries together in California would have a total production of 7 1/2 million seedlings.106 It took 144 men and 100 horses to plant fields of 1,600 acres in eucalyptus. One manufacturing and milling company bought acreage to supply its saws with eucalyptus lumber. This same company had plans to build a factory to process eucalyptus for implements, vehicle stock, and flooring. The company enthusiastically stated, "Demands for the product are so great that the factory will not be able to supply all the orders offered."107
Hughes Manufacturing and Lumber Company of Los Angeles was using eucalyptus extensively and the demand was so great that orders were hard to fill.108 In reaction to demand for information about eucalyptus, the State Board of Forestry published a circular entitled, "A Handbook for Eucalyptus Planters." It dealt with planting, species, soils, moisture, and climate. It also contained studies on size, age, and yield done by measuring specimens at plantations throughout the state. The purpose was to head off wild production claims.109
It seems that eucalyptus companies were using statistics from the Forestry Society of California, a non-governmental entity. An investigation was launched into society's practices especially the information in its literature. It found that an advertising agency had gathered the statistics and produced the brochures. The society had to be reorganized and its literature cleaned up to the satisfaction of the investigating authorities.110 Still company prospectuses were as one would expect, slick brochures with glowing statements and carefully selected pictures. The advertising prospectus of the Mahogany Eucalyptus and Land Company of Oakland was largely a pictorial presentation containing photographs of trees, nurseries and plantations. Its text made claims in the usual superlative fashion, such as, "This tree at this particular moment is in many instances the most valuable one on the face of the globe. Maturity is in a decade or two. No Teak, Mahogany, Ebony, Hickory or Oak was ever tougher, denser, stronger or of more glorious hardness . . . "111
The prospectus went on to proclaim that the eucalyptus could grow to over 500 feet and that the company's plantations were fully active. It spoke of the many uses of the eucalyptus and about its healing nature as a medicine. The company claimed nine nurseries and had photographs of them. Throughout, the prospectus was nicely done, used typical selling techniques, and didn't appear to be dishonest except maybe the usual exaggerations which one would expect. It ended by saying, "The purpose of the prospectus is to show that the Company's money investiture in Eucalyptus is as the Rock of Gibraltar for impregnable strength and strategic position."112
The president of the Mahogany Eucalyptus and Land Company was Frank C. Havens who did indeed plant eucalyptus throughout the Oakland hills. He got seed from Australia and planted millions of seedlings on 3,000 acres. He built a sawmill, and the company's arboretum contained sixty varieties of eucalyptus. The company was incorporated in December 1910 and was dissolved in February 1913. Its impact can still be seen today in the forests that grace the landscape.113
The eucalyptus companies advertised for investors to be partners in the enterprise. An investor could buy land fully planted and make monthly payments. The company did all of the work, and shared what profits there were with their business partners. It took normally ten years before a profit could be realized. An acre planted in eucalyptus cost $250 with the promise of making $2,500 an acre at harvest time ten years later.114 This offer was tempting, and "widows, teachers, and small businessmen invested their life savings in the eucalyptus boom. Farmers ripped out staple crops to plant eucalyptus."115
The railroads took an interest. Santa Fe Railroad planted eucalyptus on thousands of acres at Rancho Santa Fe for ties, poles, and interior woods for railroad cars. By 1908, the railroad discovered, just as the Central Pacific Railroad did several decades before, that unseasoned eucalyptus wood twisted and cracked thus putting an end to their project.116 Even the novelist Jack London got into the act. He planted 100,000 trees on his ranch with the intention of using the wood for furniture. This would not eventuate.117
From Fall 1909 to Spring 1910, 23,000 acres in California were planted in eucalyptus, mostly red and blue gums. These investments were obviously at an infancy stage as it would take years before harvesting could take place. Eucalyptus still at this point was being used primarily for firewood.118
The boom fizzled. It was found that eucalyptus wood could not be seasoned properly to do the things that had been anticipated. Tests of seasoning were performed and processes were structured for proper curing, but there was a great dissatisfaction with these. Eucalyptus wood warped, cracked, twisted, and became too tough once cured. The yields that were projected it was found would take too many years to be realized. The hardwood shortage that spurred the boom was resolved by the use of steel, cement, and other substitutes. Wagons and carriages were being replaced by metal automobiles thus ending that hardwood market. Using eucalyptus for fuel was diminished by the discovery and rising use of oil, gas, and electricity.
The boom ended. Lumber mills using exclusively eucalyptus timber closed. Furniture manufacturers moved back East. Plantation trees were sold for firewood. Pharmacologists dropped their support which meant that eucalyptus would not be used in most medicines. Prime agriculture land was returned to traditional crops. Nurseries unloaded their eucalyptus stock. Through the rest of the twentieth century eucalyptus would be used mostly for fuel, windbreaks, and in certain medicines.
Not everyone was enchanted with the eucalyptus anyway, and now even more felt a dislike as represented in this sarcastic piece from The Argonaut:
There is a craze all over the state about the eucalyptus or Australian blue gum tree . . . Eucalyptus will frighten away fevers and murder malaria. Its leaves cure asthma. Its roots knocks out ague as cold as jelly. Its bark improves that of a dog. A dead body buried in a coffin made from the wood of the blue gum will enjoy immunity from the exploring mole and the penetrating worm . . . this absurd vegetable is now growing all over the State. One cannot get out of its sight . . . crops up everywhere in independent ugliness. It defaces every landscape with botches of blue and embitters every breeze with suggestions of an old woman's medicine chest. Let us have no more of it.119
For the next 40 years, the country would see wars and a great depression. Interest in eucalyptus declined dramatically and farmers turned to irrigated crops especially in the inland valleys. However, the eucalyptus was well and flourishing. Beautiful forests dotted the coastal hillsides and crevices. They had become a permanent fixture so much so that most residents of the state believed them to be native. Left untouched, their size even awed visiting Australians. Magazines recognized these mammoths by carrying travel articles which pointed out special groves or unique individual trees.
There was a spawning of interest in the 1950's. The Masonite Corporation tested various eucalyptus species in
regard to fibreboard. In the 1960's, the University of California Cooperative Extension launched a program to identify
eucalyptus species determining which ones grew the fastest. Quick growth tied with economics is always of interest.
New species were being tested such as nitens, glaucens, and ovata.120
The energy crisis of the 1970's and a renewed interest in small-acreage farming brought attention to the miracle eucalyptus. Alternative sources of energy was high on the agenda. Instead of turning generators with petroleum fuel, biomass fuel, such as wood and other similar substances, was being considered. This form of energy was examined by the University of California and the State Forestry Department, and in the 1980's, nine biomass study sites were created.121
Environmental tolerances of the various eucalyptus species are now being tested provoked by recent California droughts and freezes. New smaller species are being genetically produced primarily for highway and urban planting. There are between 70 to 100 species growing in California today.122
The 1980's did usher in renewed large scale growing of eucalyptus for biomass fuel, fibreboard, and pulp for paper. Some growers have planted 30 acres or more with 80,000 to 100,000 seedlings. There are small growers too who may have of an acre of land planted in eucalyptus for firewood. Cords of cut wood are bringing $125 to $180. Windbreaks are still being planted for protection of crops and residences. In the recent droughts, certain species of eucalyptus are proving to be survivors and thus are used for shade and ornamentation requiring little care.123
Eucalyptus workshops have been held in Sacramento for the exchange of ideas and new findings. One such workshop was held June 14-16, 1983 and covered such topics as history, species selection, products, uses, economics, growth and yield, cultural requirements, propagation, and breeding programs. Another workshop was held May 9, 1991.
Eucalyptus is found worldwide and is in major industrial production in Brazil and China. There are environmental and cultural concerns to address. It is for certain though, like it or not, the eucalyptus will always be a tree of the future because it has so much to offer humanity.