A Fire Hazard?
Who can forget the recent October 1991 fire in the Berkeley-Oakland hills where 3,000 homes were lost and 24 people died. Temperatures got up to 2,000 degrees F. as the firestorm swept the hills. There are those who blame the eucalyptus for the fire. There are others who disagree saying that eucalyptus was at fault just as much as any other tree. Who is right? To answer this question, one must look first at the historical facts in regard to eucalyptus and fires.
The eucalyptus is regarded generally as a "dirty tree" because if its litter is left untouched it can pile up to several feet on a grove's floor. This litter consists of falling bark, leaves, branches, and seed pods. They all contain oil which increases the litter's flammability.347 The oil also slows the decomposition process so the litter remains nearly whole and a fire hazard longer.348
When trees grow closely together, they form a canopy which doesn't allow light to penetrate; consequently, ground vegetation doesn't grow. This is the case in eucalyptus groves. No vegetation means no dry grass, and hence, not a source of fire.349 Therefore, one can rule out dry grass as a facilitator in the 1991 fire.
No question eucalyptus litter is a fire hazard. In 1907, the U.S. Forest Service warned about eucalyptus litter: "The large quantity of litter -- which accumulates beneath a stand is extremely inflammable . . .350 When fire gains access to a plantation the oily litter burns so fiercely that it can scarcely be extinguished before the whole grove is burned."351
Historically, the East Bay has had numerous grass and forest fires. In October 1887, before large groves of eucalyptus were planted 8,300 acres of primarily grass were burned in the Chabot area. In 1897, near Berkeley, 7,000 acres burned. Eucalyptus groves were planted in the first decade of the twentieth century. In September 1923 a fire destroyed 640 homes in Berkeley. Thirty-six homes and 250 acres were burned in September1973. One would have to conclude that there seems to be a natural tendency for this area to generate fire from some sort of dried vegetation.352
Eucalyptus planting in the East Bay hills began in the 1880's when the Judson Dynamite and Powder Company planted trees to muffle the sound of dynamite and to hide an ugly landscape created by the blasts. Large scale planting of eucalyptus occurred during the first decade this century. It was for timber and real estate investment, and to control fires that hampered the area.
The Oakland Tribune writing at that time noted the problem of fires and the value of the new eucalyptus: " . . . (eucalyptus is) primarily a measure against recurring fires that almost every year swept over the hills . . . "353
The State Board of Forestry in its Ninth Biennial Report (1923) commented: " Not more than fifteen years ago the hills lying along the easterly portions of the cities of Oakland and Berkeley were not as now covered with groves of forest trees, but were practically bare on the western slope . . . During that time to planting of trees, grass fires were of common occurrence during the summer months . . . "354
Winter freezes compound the fire problem by killing back trees that then drop the dead wood and foliage to the grove floor. Blue gum is by far the most common California eucalyptus and is intolerant of below freezing weather. The fires in the East Bay hills of 1923, 1973, and 1991 were preceded by a freeze. Very few eucalyptus actually die from frost because their root systems are unaffected. They merely shed the frost-burned foliage and wood, and resprout. But the amount of litter dropped to the ground is enormous.355
Just after the 1972 freeze, the people of the area were frantic, fearing the possibility of a fire if the litter from the freeze was not removed. Legislation for relief refunds was introduced in Congress and hearings were held. At the hearing before the Subcommittee on Forests of the Committee of Agriculture this was said: "Forest Service's leading expert on this eucalyptus disaster (the freeze) has stated that the fire threat posed by these dead trees 'is unique in that a sudden and widespread kill of such highly flammable species in a urban area of normally severe fire hazard has never been experienced before in the United States.'"356
It was estimated that two million trees had been killed in the 1972 freeze which amounted to about 50 tons of debris per acre and covered 3,000 acres. The debris lying on the ground was one to two feet deep. Again the prophetic voice of the Subcommittee on Forests: "A small fire could easily become a major holocaust before the necessary equipment could get into the area, as there is no real access road into the Berkeley-Oakland Hills."357
H.H. Biswell, Professor of Forestry and Conservation at the University of California, Berkeley made a prophetic statement too on March 1973:
When eucalyptus waste catches fire, an updraft is created and strong winds may blow flaming bark for a great distance. I think the eucalyptus is the worst tree anywhere as far as fire hazard is concerned. If some of that flaming bark should be flown on to shake roofs in the hills we might have a fire storm that would literally suck the roofs off the houses. People might be trapped.358
Federal disaster funding for the removal of the litter from the 1972 freeze was only $1 million instead of the $11 million requested. Without federal support, property owners had to pay for litter and tree removal themselves costing $100 or more a tree.359 Only part of the damaged trees were removed, and a 12 mile, 200 foot firebreak was carved in the hills.360 This was inadequate as seen by the quick-moving 1991 firestorm.
Conclusively the 1990 freeze led to the 1991 firestorm. The eucalyptus got the blame for spreading the fire as seen in this San Francisco Chronicle article with the headline "Eucalyptus trees getting blamed for East Bay fire."
Eucalyptus globulus, the tall, aromatic trees dropped yet another notch in public esteem in the great East Bay hills fire of 1991. Like giant matchsticks and loaded with freeze-dried fuel, the East Bay's eucalyptus trees acted like a torch that spread the conflagration by exploding into flames almost instantly -- Experts who otherwise couldn't agree on whether the fire began by arson, official foul-up or act of God declared that the Australian imports bore heavy blame. And while her press aide derided the trees as "weeds," Berkeley Mayor Lori Hancock proposed chain-sawing thousands of them in hopes of forever preventing a repeat of the deadly events of Oct. 20, 1991.361
Blaming the eucalyptus was labeled by some as "hysterical." Alexander Kerr, a El Centro writer who spent seven years in Australia in wildfire control, called the assertions exaggerations. He and others passionately explained that the spread of the fire was not caused by trees but by dry grass, unkempt lots, and exploding wooden houses. He explained that litter and dead grass must be removed continuously to avoid such a thing from happening again. To logoff all of the trees, as has been suggested, would invite terrible soil erosion and the destruction of wildlife.362
Blaming the eucalyptus continued though. The eucalyptus trees were called "weeds" and "trash trees," "immigrants," and "mongrelizations of the species."363 One year after the fire, the garden editor of Sunset Magazine and an eucalyptus supporter, wrote: "With this tree, it seems you either love it or fear and hate it. And I've noticed that those who fear the tree seem almost irrational about it . . . A few messy types of eucalyptus need to have their debris cleaned every year or two, but scores of other kinds are as orderly and as safe as any other broadleafed evergreen."364
The native home of the eucalyptus, Australia, has eucalyptus forest fires generally every year. In January 1994 a large fire broke out near Sydney and was in the international news. This was said about the eucalyptus:
The explosive nature of the eucalyptus and the abundance of fuel produces a very intense fire that 'crowns' -- leaps from tree top to tree top . . . The fierce blazes have been stoked by the highly volatile oils of the eucalyptus tree, which vaporize under intense radiative heat as the fire approaches and explode, with flames sometimes towering as high as 230 feet.365
One reason Australia is so fire prone is the eucalyptus have aromatic oils in their leaves that adds to flammability . . . Eucalyptus trees are one of the world's most inflammable trees. It bursts into flames when fire reaches a certain temperature because there is rapid vaporization of the oils and that causes rapid ignition.366
In 1962, the Australian Forestry and Timber Bureau published "Control Burning in Eucalyptus Forests." It said that controlled burning does not kill eucalyptus trees, but it burns off the litter that collects on the forest floor which is 10 tons per acre. It recommends controlled burning every five years.367
In his book, Burning Bush: A Fire History of Australia, published in 1991, Stephen Pyne told the story of an Australian firefighting expert who attended a conference in Berkeley. The expert visited the hills in and around Berkeley and saw how the eucalyptus forests in the area were allowed to grow. He was struck with terror by their volatile nature and fled back to Australia.368 This occurred just prior to the 1991 firestorm.
Kevin Starr, USC historian and current California State Librarian, said it best about our artificial and fragile environment:
Newcomers built their California dream, landscaping barren neighborhoods with eucalyptus and Monterey pines, trees never intended to grow in such an arid place, and planted shrubs near their homes -- all fine fuel for fires. They built a natural environment that was not all natural. It was as beautiful as it was artificial, fragile and dangerous. We Are constantly reminded what an artificially engineered construct . . . and consequently how fragile.369
Eucalyptus trees grown in California had no natural enemy as is found in Australia. This was because the genus was transplanted by seed and not by seedling. Seedlings carry parasites while the seeds do not.
In 1984, the introduction of a natural enemy occurred. Phoracanta semipunctata, or longhorned beetle, either came from Chile buried in an eucalyptus pallet, or was transported to the Lake Forest lumberyard in timbers from Australia.370 Regardless of how or where the beetle was introduced, the first infestation was discovered near El Toro, California in October 1984 much to the consternation of eucalyptus growers and lovers of the tree.371
Upon discovery, a representative of the California Department of Forestry sadly announced, "The insect is loose and it's just a matter of time before it infests every eucalyptus stand we have in California . . . the bug may be deliberately spread by ecological zealots who would like to rid the California landscape of the ubiquitous eucalyptus."372 By 1986, the beetle could be found in southern California from Long Beach to San Diego, and from Van Nuys to Hemet.373 In 1987, it was destroying eucalyptus trees at the Scripps Ranch,374 and later in 1989 at Rancho Santa Fe.375
The longhorned beetle is one inch in length and is black in color with a small yellow around its body. It is a strong flier covering several miles in one flight. It lays its eggs deep into the eucalyptus bark.376 When it bores into the inner bark, it cuts off the supply of nutrients the tree needs and thereby killing it.377
The beetle makes an immense amount of noise as it eats its way through the bark as testified in this account: "All over Rancho Santa Fe you can hear the sound -- the clatter of insatiable little insect mandibles devouring another tasty meal of bark and wood. Some say the racket resembles falling rain. Or the crackle of Rice Krispies once the milk's been poured on." In 1991, it was estimated that 20,000 of the 100,000 trees at Rancho Santa Fe had been destroyed by the crunching beetle.378
The longhorned beetle quickly kills blue and manna gums and the other gums less quickly.379 It attacks old and weak trees especially those weakened by the recent droughts.380 The beetle is attracted to trees that suffer from lack of water. Pesticides don't kill it because its eggs are laid under layers of bark. Secreting gum is the eucalyptus' natural protection against the beetle. The gum engulfs the beetle smothering it, but because of the droughts, there has not been enough moisture within the trees to manufacture sufficient gum to stop the beetle.381
The beetle problem is an expensive one. It has cost some homeowners as much as $10,000 to have their beetle-infested trees removed.382 The California Department of Forestry doesn't have the authority to help beleaguered homeowners because the eucalyptus trees are outside state forests, nor are they grown that much commercially.383
To some the eucalyptus is part of the family as one Scripps Ranch resident lamented: "People here are proud of their community and proud of our trees. That's how they think of the eucalyptus . . . It's like cutting off your arm to cut down one of our trees.384 But to protect surrounding trees the infested ones had to be removed.
Northern California awaited the beetle invasion. In 1989, it was estimated that one-third of the eucalyptus trees in the Bay Area would succumb to the beetle.385 The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department felt that 100,000 eucalyptus trees would be killed, but it depended upon how the beetle did in the colder weather of northern California.386 In 1991, the beetle had reached the Bay Area. Four hundred trees had been infested on the Stanford University campus.387
Methods to stop the beetle were tried. Infested trees were cut to the ground, and its wood buried or covered with a tarp. Some made chips from the wood thereby grinding up the larvae. The transportation of firewood from infested trees was stopped.388
It was noticed that well-watered trees weren't attack by the beetle. The bark became a sponge of water which drowned the larvae.389 The Orange County Agricultural Commission gave this advice: "To prevent beetle infestation, irrigate eucalyptus trees with a trickling hose over a 24-hour period every few weeks during the summer."390
California scientists looked to Australia for answers to the beetle problem. In Australia the beetle's natural enemy is the Syngaster lepidue wasp which locates the boring beetle by sound and stings it. University of California, Riverside researchers unleashed the wasp in southern California in 1989391 and elsewhere in 1992.392 Success has been gradual. The beetle won't quickly go away in California, but measures are being actively applied to stop its spread.
OR HATE AND THE ECOLOGICAL QUESTION
In recent years, a battleline has been drawn concerning the future of the eucalyptus in California. There are those who dislike the tree because it isn't native to California. There are others who love the tree and are very active and vocal. This disagreement is not just occurring in California but is taking place in other regions of the world. The eucalyptus' value to the local environment is being questioned. The controversy concerning Angel Island eucalyptus is a case in point.
During the Civil War, Angel Island became an U.S. Army base. Eucalyptus trees were planted sporadically from 1863 through the 1930's for windbreaks and to beautify the island.393 There are currently 80 acres of eucalyptus on the island394 with most trees being forty to fifty years old.395
A plan was devised in 1979 by the California Park System to remove the eucalyptus trees from Angel Island to allow the island's natural vegetation to return. The Park System wanted the island to be an exhibit of natural California vegetation.396 It was estimated that it would take twenty years for the natural vegetation to fully return.397
One problem the plan ran into was the monarch butterfly. It uses the Angel Island eucalyptus for its winter home. The trees provide shelter and nectar during the long, cold winter months.398 However, there are 111 other locations along the central California coast that the monarch also uses, 75% being eucalyptus.399
Siding with the Park System have been environmental organizations, such as, the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, National Audubon Society, and the California Native Plant Society. They too want natural vegetation to return to Angel Island.400 This stance is represented in this statement made by Charlie Danielson of the California Native Plant Society: " . . . the eucalyptus is a weed. It grows extremely fast and has fewer limiting biological factors in its new environment than native species . . . the large amounts of litter shed by the trees are full of resin and break down very slowly, making it difficult for native plants to gain a foothold . . . no animal species feed on eucalyptus . . . "401
State ecologists want the parklands to have only natural vegetation, and the non-native plants to be grown only in parks and private gardens.402 There are 6,021 species of vascular plants growing in California of which 975 are non-native. On Angel Island there are 53 non-native plants and 416 native plants.403
POET (Preserve Our Eucalyptus Trees) is a group that opposes the removal of eucalyptus trees. When their opposition refers to the eucalyptus as a "giant weed" or an "immigrant," they call this attitude "plant racism" or "specism" and want it stopped before it spreads and gets entrenched in the minds of Californians. Also POET fears that the giant environmental groups will influence the public because they are vocal and highly visible. POET co-founder, Chris Womack, feels that the eucalyptus is native enough to California: "Eucalyptus have been in California for 100 or more years and many of us regard them as part of the natural landscape."404
Hikers and bikers oppose the removal of the eucalyptus from Angel Island because it adds beauty and provides shade and shelter. Ray Moritz, a private forestry consultant believes the removal of the trees will do great ecological damage to the island. It will cause soil erosion on the slopes, and the herbicides used to kill the eucalyptus roots will delay the return of the natural vegetation.405
Mortiz feels a reasonable course of action would be to thin out the groves. This would allow some of the natural vegetation to return and some of the trees to remain. David Boyd, senior resource ecologist for the State Park's northern region, argues that selective removal is not economically feasible. He wants all the trees to be removed at once.406
Boyd made arrangements with Louisiana Pacific Corporation of Antioch to transport the eucalyptus timber to its mill and be made into fibreboard. The entire process would pay for itself not costing the state any money. But the
environmentalists are against this plan as it sets a precedent for logging off other forests for commercial purposes.407 The Angel Island issue is on hold for now.
A similar struggle goes on across the bay in Marin County. The National Park Service wants to remove all of the eucalyptus from the Golden Gate Recreation Area. There are thousands of trees with many over 100 years old.408 The groves cover 600 acres and is seen as a fire risk. Just like the State Park Service, the National Park Service wants only natural vegetation to grow on its parklands.409 After much public debate, the issue has been tabled while a study is being done concerning the historical value of the groves.410
There have been other clashes statewide on the removal issue. For example, eucalyptus trees were cut down along Highway 17 in the Bay Area by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) because they blocked billboards.411 Thirteen years later, the FHA reversed its policy and now gives trees priority over billboards.412
In Antioch, William LeRoy sat in a eucalyptus tree protesting its removal. The tree was on property that was scheduled for senior citizen housing.413 LeRoy got 900 community residents to sign a petition asking that the one-hundred year old tree be spared because of its historical value to Antioch.414
Two eucalyptus on Nob Hill in San Francisco caused a stir in the community when they were to be removed by the Department of Public Works. The neighborhood argued that the trees were of value for their beauty and of tourist interest. A streetside public hearing was held by the city which resulted in the canceling of the removal plan.415
Confrontations on the eucalyptus removal issue still abound. The older trees are large and messy, and mostly unsuitable for urban and suburban environments. Here are some further examples to demonstrate how widespread the problem has been. Five trees planted by San Francisco abolitionist and former slave, Mary (Mammy) Pleasant were scheduled for removal which was cancelled due to historical reasons.416 Fifty-three acres of eucalyptus were saved in Carlsbad by a referendum.417
Some trees lost the battle though and were removed. In Ramona, eucalyptus trees along Highway 67 were cut down for highway construction.418 On the campus of the University of the Pacific, a row of 70-foot eucalyptus were removed because of the danger of falling branches to people and cars.419 Falling branches is such a problem in Australia that the eucalyptus is sometimes referred to as the "widow maker" because of the deaths caused by falling branches.
Debate goes on at the international level concerning the value of the eucalyptus to the community and to the environment. In China, eucalyptus was planted on a massive scale for biomass fuel and pulp for paper. The local population complained that the trees took away the nutrients from the soil and also encroached on the natural vegetation. The Japanese too have been very active in establishing eucalyptus plantations in the orient. The Japanese own the plantations, but keep a low profile because the eucalyptus issue is very sensitive at the local level.420
In Spain, three hundred inhabitants of Tarzones, a village on the Bay
of Biscay, revolted against the eucalyptus. At night they uprooted thousands
of eucalyptus seedlings planted that day. Near the village of Valpacos,
Portugal, 2,000 farmers battled police because the intruding eucalyptus
was damaging their olive groves. In another Portuguese village, farmers
chained themselves to tractors so the lands could not be prepared for eucalyptus
In many parts of the world, the production of pulp for paper is an important industry. Eucalyptus wood is being used more and more for pulp, and the presence of large industrial eucalyptus plantations is angering local populations. The problem has become political in that the farmers, local citizens, and environmentalists see the eucalyptus as a capitalist venture, exploiting the land to gain profit for others who live outside the region. The eucalyptus is called "the capitalist tree" or the "fascist tree."422
There are two to three million acres of eucalyptus in Iberia. It is said the eucalyptus " . . . dries up the water resources, causes soil erosion, ruins the beauty of the landscape, destroys wildlife, and drives peasants from the land." Shepherds lose their pastureland to large plantations. Towns don't receive sunlight because the large trees shade them. Oil in the leaves discourages bugs, and consequently, there are fewer birds. The large eucalyptus groves get constant maintenance which leaves the ground barren and not attractive to wildlife. The eucalyptus replaces vineyards and olive groves.423
In some parts of the world, the eucalyptus has been considered a boon to the local economy, but when it fails for any reason the eucalyptus receives strong criticism. Quite often failure is attributed to either selecting the wrong species or selecting the wrong land. The problem is not really the tree but bad forestry practice. The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) reviewed the eucalyptus issue worldwide, and in 1985, published their findings in a document entitled "The Ecological Effects of Eucalyptus." It concluded after discussing its field research:
Having reviewed the evidence very thoroughly, we must stress that there can be no universal answer, either favorable or unfavorable, to the planting of eucalypts. Nor should there be any universal answer: each case should be examined on its individual merits. We cannot see how further general research, however detailed, can alter this conclusion. We stress that eucalypts should not be planted, especially on a large scale, without a careful and intelligent assessment of the social and economic consequences, and an attempt to balance the advantage against the disadvantages. 424
The discussion in this section on international issues is presented to alert the reader to ensuing problems both ecologically and politically which might find expression in California at some point. Also it is to make the reader aware of worldwide interest in eucalyptus.
PLANTING AND CARE
There are a number of good publications that have basic information on the proper planting methods and care of eucalyptus. Such authors as Abbott Kinney, Ellwood Cooper, Alfred McClatchie, Norman Ingham, George Lull, C.H. Sellers, and Woodbridge Metcalf give planting and care advice in their publications. Many of these works have already been cited in this study. Much of the information is similar and does not vary much even though some are older than others.
If one were to encapsulate the information in a phrase, it could be simply stated, "treat the eucalyptus like any other plant." This means: select the proper species, germinate the seeds indoors, keep seedlings in flat boxes, plant seedlings in proper soil during proper weather, water as needed, cultivate soil, and prune back when desired. This ideal recipe is basic to any plant with some variation in regard to plant type and environmental conditions. In this section, eucalyptus horticultural practices will be discussed briefly to give the reader some basic background. The deliberation will be in the context of history however.
One major question one must ask immediately before purchasing or gathering seed is where will these eucalyptus trees be planted? Early in the history of eucalyptus in California, planting was done on prime agricultural land with some trees being planted on hillsides. Once it was determined that the eucalyptus would not be a prime agricultural crop, farmers began planting them in waste land leaving the good soil for more important crops. Eucalyptus then has a history of being planted on poor soil void of nutrients, having little moisture, and little cultivation. There are exceptions to this of course where corporations planted large tracts of eucalyptus on good land. Some have planted eucalyptus in private gardens and public parks.
Once location and the objective have been decided, then the species can be chosen. Each eucalyptus species is different in regard to need and purpose. For example, a blue gum is not suitable to residential planting because it grows too big, is messy, tears up sidewalks, and invades sewer systems. It is more suitable as a windbreak or for biomass fuel. To select a species it is always advisable to use a written resource, or to ask an expert on the topic such as a farm advisor or nurseryman. Abbott Kinney was one such advisor.
In 1895, Kinney suggested interested growers should contact people who had eucalyptus experience, such as W.S. Lyons who was a botanist and former State Forester; J.L. Stengle at Park Nursery in Los Angeles; and Dr. Francischi of Santa Barbara.425 In his 1908 publication, George B. Lull listed several nurseries that sold eucalyptus seed or seedlings and could give advice on planting and care of the tree. Those were: Cox Seed Co., Pacific Nursery, and Seaman Nursery all located in the Bay Area. In southern California he listed Germain Seed and Plant Co., Stengel Exotic Nursery Co., and Theo. Payne.426
In some instances it was cheaper to grow seedlings than to buy them especially when large quantities were needed. Also there would be more consistency in seed stock if the grower collected and grew his own. Seed costs varied throughout the state from $8 to $30 a thousand. It would cost from $2.50 to $3.50 a thousand to grow seedlings. To buy or to grow seedlings was a matter of local economics and a separate decision for each grower.427
If species besides the common ones were desired, seed needed to be collected because they normally weren't available for sale. The best time to collect eucalyptus seeds is before the fruit opens. Once collected store in sacks or boxes. In warm water, seeds will open in 24 hours.428 There are 50,000 blue gum seeds in one pound and of these 40,000 will germinate and grow.429 Eucalyptus seeds will not germinate well in open soil but will in protected boxes.430 Growers have though broadcasted seed on sides of hills and have planted one seed at a time. The best time to do this is late June or early July.431
For the best results, put seeds under 2 1/2 inches of soil covered with a layer of sand or redwood sawdust to hold the moisture. Be sure to keep the seeds damp through the heat of the day. Once the seedling breaks through the soil, water less or fungus will occur.432 A lath house is the best facility for the germination of seed. It provides shade but allows some sun to filter in as well. The rule of thumb is forty seedlings per one square foot of space. Be sure to keep ants, rodents, and birds out.433
To be successful, McClatchie urges to plant species in the same conditions found in their native Australia. Some like arid climate while others like damp climate. Red and sugar gums do best in dry climates while the blue gum adapts easily to coastal moisture.434 It is important to know a species' frost toleration to be able to determine what climate in which to plant it.435
Having the right soil is crucial. Nearly all eucalyptus do well if the soil is properly prepared and maintained. The soil needs to plowed and harrowed to allow the roots to reach moisture.436 It was found in a study by the University of California early this century that eucalyptus do poorly on sandy mesa soil and gravelly adobe slopes. Rich loamy soil is the general preference of the eucalyptus.437
Make sure that brush and trees are removed so the eucalyptus doesn't have to compete with them for soil nutrients.438 Soil should be free of clods,439 and then plant seedlings when six inches tall.440 Plant the seedlings in May or June. Be watchful of rodents eating the seedlings. Seedlings should be ten to twenty inches tall in the San Joaquin Valley because of the harshness of the summer heat.441 It is good to plant seedlings before a rain. Cooper made this comment in regard to planting: "I have, with ten men, transplanted as many as seven thousand in an afternoon, and have ninety-five percent live."442 Organize workers in teams. One group digs the holes, one to plant, and one to cover up.443
Avoid shock to the seedlings by keeping soil around the roots. Plant 1 1/2 inches lower in the soil than in the flat boxes. Press soil firmly and give small amount of water. Do cultivate to kill the weeds which would take the nutrients away from the eucalyptus seedlings.444
Plant 1,000 trees to an acre with a spacing of 6 x 7 feet. In five years remove 3/4 of them leaving the straight and better specimens.445 McClatchie suggests planting them with 8 x 8 or 6 x 10 spacing. He advises not to plant too close as it affects proper growth.446 Ingham notes that spacing is important, and that close spacing will produce straight trees. Close spacing will also create a canopy which will shade the soil preventing evaporation and discourage ground vegetation.447
Lull suggests not to space smaller than 6 x 6 feet and not to space beyond 10 x 10. Take into consideration the purpose of the eucalyptus. It firewood is desired, spread the spacing out for more bushiness. If poles or posts are wanted, space closer for straight trees with little branches.448
Give the seedlings plenty of water especially in the inland areas which are much drier. Keep rabbits and other rodents away from the seedlings as they will eat them.449 Cultivation is important as it stimulates growth in young trees. In hot and dry climates, cultivation allows the young tree's roots time to locate the water table.450 It also stops weed growth which can sap the young tree's growth.451 Cultivating costs should not exceed $5 for the first year and $2.50 the second year per 1895 estimates.452
Weak trees will soon die out allowing the stronger ones to use all the nutrients for greater growth.453 Thinning out of trees should be based on a production plan. Yield tables have been developed which factor in diameter of the tree, height of the tree, and the number of trees per acre. Such tables determine the number of trees needed to produce a certain yield.454
Any cutting, thinning or pruning should be done when the tree is least active which is normally during the late fall or winter. This is done so as not to bleed the tree's vitality. Cut the tree at an angle so the moisture will drain off thereby avoiding fungus growth. Cut the tree low because each new sprouting grows higher on the trunk.455
"The value of a plantation when ten years old will depend most largely on the care that it received during the first four or five years of it growth," advised Norman Ingham in 1908. It is important to remove limbs that deform trees to allow for straighter and healthier growth.456 It cost from $15 to $50 per acre to prepare, plant, and maintain a plantation in 1908.457
TREES, GROVES AND, PLANTATIONS
Planting of eucalyptus in California began gradually and then exploded on a massive scale. In the beginning eucalyptus was planted in gardens, near barns, next to houses, and along country lanes primarily for ornamental purposes. Once its value as firewood was seen, wider planting occurred. Next came the recognition of eucalyptus as a hardwood which could be used in numerous ways for profit, but this played out quickly when it failed to meet expectations. Left in the wake of this history are single trees, groves, and plantations. They provoke interest and their stories provide rich history which is covered in this section.
In 1876, Ellwood Cooper planted 50,000 eucalyptus on his "Ellwood" ranch. He recorded the progress of his enterprise advertising it when he could. Within three years his trees reached over forty feet. He planted on a variety of terrain for experimentation to see how the trees compared.458 It was reported that he cut 1,000 cords of wood per year which sold for $2.50 a cord or $2,500. His listeners were reminded that this money came from land little used for other purposes.459 Cooper wrote of other successes. General Naglee planted eucalyptus in San Jose in 1866 which grew within ten years to a height of ninety feet and a diameter of eighteen inches.460
In 1895, Abbott Kinney wrote of blue gum which he planted along
Santa Monica streets in 1876. Kinney was the road master for the area,
and he planted the trees in straight rows for aesthetics. Many didn't receive
proper care and were cut down for firewood. This left holes in his orderly
rows. He complained about this and about realtors who planted eucalyptus
unevenly on property.461 Kinney also told of Dr. Charles P. Murray, who
was the road master for the Sierra Madre district, and his sugar gum plantings
along the Lamanda and Sierra Madre roads.462
Kinney spent a day in the early 1890's at the University of California, Berkeley campus inspecting the eucalyptus trees planted decades before. He found fourteen species and most were in bad condition. He wasn't pleased about what he saw and wrote: " . . . the Eucalyptus plantations at the University of California grounds are uninteresting."463 In 1943, the California Division of Forestry recorded that the tallest eucalyptus tree in the state was on the Berkeley campus which measured 209 feet. In this grove there were 113 trees averaging 146.9 feet in height and 25 inches in diameter. It was projected that the grove could produce 294 cords of wood. This particular grove was planted in 1884, and the size of the trees even awed Australian visitors.464
Eucalyptus seed and seedling giveaway program of the University of California Experiment Station was popular throughout the state. In its 1903 report, it listed the
species and the growers receiving them. The growers were expected to keep records and give feedback to the University. The species in the program were the familiar ones, such as, rostrata, leucoxylon, robusta, gunnii, polyanythema, citriodora,and globulus. Growers participating in the program were Albert Etter of Ettersberg, Humboldt County; H. Overacker Jr. of St. Helena, Napa County; L.L. Guss of Oakley, Contra Costa County; C.C. Wulff of Watsonville, Santa Cruz County; S.H. Haskell of Porterville, Tulare County; Alfred Day of Chatsworth Park, Los Angeles County; and Mrs. C.E. Foss of Alpine, San Diego County.465
During the eucalyptus boom period, many plantations were established. Dwight Whiting of El Toro, Orange County, reportedly planted 1,000 acres of gray, red, and sugar gums. The Bixby Company of Long Beach planted 3,000 acres of blue, gray, lemon, and sugar gums.466 Harry W. Dunn reported in his 1906 article that the Santa Fe Railroad had planted eucalyptus on its southern California ranch of 10,000 acres. In the desert, near the towns of Calexico, Coachella, and Imperial, several hundred acres were planted in eucalyptus. He commented467 that "Eucalyptus trees are being planted all over the bare foothills of southern California."468
Union Lumber Company at Fort Bragg, Mendocino County logged off 10,000 to 15,000 acres to plant eucalyptus, George B. Lull, State Forester, reported in 1908. The plan was really for the reforesting of redwoods. An eucalyptus tree would be planted next to a redwood to block out the hot sun so the redwood could grow without being burned.
Central Counties Land Company planted blue and sugar gums in the Clear
Lake area. Pacific Electric Company and the Ontario Power Company bought
land in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties to plant with eucalyptus.469
Lull lists some of the owners who planted groves for firewood:
Owner Location Acreage
Cooper Ellwood 200
Bennett Del Mar 200
Nadeau Florence 115
Meecham Petaluma 100
Varrick Orange 90
Hazard Los Angeles 90
Thaxter Florence 80
Nichol Santa Fe Sprgs 80
Smith Berkeley 80
Bixby Long Beach 80
Rosencrans Gardena 80
Gunn Santa Fe Sprgs 50
Hough Huntington Park 40
Sexton Compton 40
Kellam Compton 40 470
Norman D. Ingham in his 1908 publication for the College of Agriculture Experiment Station, Berkeley, has a section listing the places in California where eucalyptus has been planted and the species planted. For example at Tulare amygdalina, gunnii, rostrata, viminalis, globulus, and resinifera were planted. At San Jose globulus, rostrata, viminalis, stuartiana, corynocalyx, rudis, polyanthema, and tereticornis were planted.471
C.H. Sellers, a former Assistant State Forester, in his 1910 publication there were yield tables of major California eucalyptus plantations. He compiled this information at the height of the eucalyptus boom to give tangible numbers to legitimize the eucalyptus industry. This was done to encourage growers and to give information to prospective investors. The tables contained the owner of the grove, grove's location, spacing between trees, age of trees, number of trees per acre, volume of timber, cords, volume of board feet, and if the trees began from seedlings or sprouted.472
Without question Sellers' study contained very valuable information. Tree spacing varied with each plantation from 4 x 4 feet to 12 x 12 feet with the most common being 8 x 8 and 10 x 10. The Baldwin plantation had the oldest trees which were 24 years old followed by the trees at the Mecham plantation in Petaluma which were 20 years old. Most plantations in southern California had eucalyptus of 6 to 9 years. Baldwin had the largest volume followed by Mecham. In Compton, Micheaux, Diamond Coal Company, Lassing, Montique, Sexton, and Stewart had eucalyptus plantations. Bailey and Newman had plantations in Santa Ana. Most of Sellers' research centered in southern California.473
Harrison Mecham's (Meechan or Meccham, spelling varies) ranch located 6 miles north of Petaluma had 200 acres in eucalyptus which had been planted in 1888. The ranch contained 5,000 to 6,000 acreage of rolling hills where cattle and sheep grazed. The eucalyptus occupied the gullies and hilltops to provide shelter for the livestock from the frequent rains.474
L. Micheaux of Compton kept records of his eucalyptus which were shared with others. His plantation was used in promotional literature, and in one such brochure of the Eucalyptus Timber Corporation (1910) this was written:
Mr. Micheaux's work is a striking example of successful Eucalyptus culture, and the public is indebted to him for some very valuable data as to the actual results which he has accomplished. He has kept a careful record of the date of each cutting and the results obtained, and is, therefore, in position to speak accurately and intelligently.475
In 1910, Ellwood Cooper had eucalyptus that were now 35 years old and 175 feet in height which when cut could produce 2,000 feet of lumber each.476 In Linda Vista near San Jose, a grove of blue gum planted in 1870 were from 40 to 150 feet tall as noted in the 1910 publication of Louis Margolin on eucalyptus yields. He studied the important plantations and groves of the state. In northern California, he visited the Mecham ranch and studied the trees. In Alameda County, he examined a number of groves that were 30 to 40 years old. These trees had grown in loamy soil which is the best for eucalyptus. There were 300 to 800 trees per acre.477
Margolin's study contained individual tables for each grove he visited and gave the location, number of trees per acre, height, and volume per acre. The majority of the groves are under ten years of age and trees height averages 40 feet. He also has tables of older groves of 20 years with trees 100 feet tall. Only blue gum appears in the study.478
The 1916 report of the State Forester presents a table listing the California commercial plantations in existence. The table gives the plantation's location, eucalyptus species, acreage planted, age of the trees, and condition. It shows an immediate decline in the eucalyptus industry just after the boom. Companies whose plantations were studied: American Eucalyptus Company, California Eucalyptus Timber Company, Eucalyptus Estates Company, Golden State Eucalyptus Company, Sacramento Valley Eucalyptus Company, and Yolo Eucalyptus Company. Acreages ran from 240 of the American Eucalyptus Company to 1,330 of the Sacramento Valley Eucalyptus Company. The most popular species were tereticornia, rostrata, and globulus. Trees on the whole were four to seven years old and mostly in poor to fair condition. Just the Pratt Eucalyptus Company of Escondido had an excellent rating.479
In the August 1956 issue of Sunset Magazine there was an article describing the various California eucalyptus groves along with a map of their location. It begins with the Mecham ranch groves planted in the 1880's. One grove is 1 1/2 miles long and 7 rows wide. Near Lakeville and Petaluma Creek there are trees planted in the 1860's. Near Glen Ellen is Jack London's ranch where 10,000 eucalyptus were planted in 1910. William T. Coleman, who was the leader of the 1856 San Francisco vigilantes planted blue gum on his ranch north of San Rafael.480
Tamalpais Valley grove of red and blue gums were planted in 1910 with 75,000 seedlings to ultimately be used as pilings for San Francisco wharves. In the East Bay, Frank Havens and his People's Water Company planted $250,000 worth of red and blue gums in the Berkeley-Oakland hills. Eucalyptus trees were planted at Mills College in 1871. Across the bay, the Presidio, Sutro Forest, Mount Davidson, and Yerba Buena Island. Some of these come from San Francisco Mayor Adolf Sutro's Arbor Day plantings in the 1880's. In 1886, 3,000 people traveled by boat to Yerba Buena Island to plant eucalyptus and to hear speeches given by Sutro, Joaquin Miller, and General Mariano Vallejo.481
In the 1870's, John McLaren, developer of Golden Gate Park, planted elms along El Camino Real. Eucalyptus trees were planted next to the elms to shelter them. These blue and manna gums outgrew the elms and were removed eventually for highway widening.482 McLaren also planted 30,000 trees in Golden Gate Park among which were eucalyptus.483 In 1888, eucalyptus and other trees were planted on the Stanford University campus. Soon the eucalyptus outgrew the other trees and became the focal point of the arboretum and botanic garden. In 1956, the oldest existing eucalyptus tree in California was the San Jose eucalyptus planted in 1858 by Captain Joseph Aram.484
In the central valley of California, practically every ranch had an eucalyptus tree planted near ranch buildings. Frederick Roeding, a Fresno nurseryman, planted a number of eucalyptus species at Roeding Park, Fresno. Also in Fresno, are 3,000 eucalyptus planted by Theodore Kearney at Kearney Park. The J.C. McCubbin ranch near Dinuba has manna gum trees planted in 1889. In Visalia, there is an eucalyptus tree planted by David Douglass in 1860.485
John Smedley of the South Pacific Coast Railroad planted eucalyptus along the streets of Newark, located in southern Alameda County in the 1870's.486 At the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum is found the "Wolfskill Eucalyptus" next to Queen Anne Cottage. Some feel that William Wolfskill planted eucalyptus on the Rancho Santa Anita in the 1860's or 1870's. Harris Newmark bought the rancho in 1872 and commented that there were five blue gums near the house. The Queen Anne Cottage was built in 1881 by another owner, E.J. Baldwin, and he planted eucalyptus. Many feel that the "Wolfskill Eucalyptus" was actually planted by Baldwin in 1881.487
Found in the National Register of Historic Places is the Etiwanda Windbreaks of San Bernardino. These eucalyptus were planted to protect fruit trees, fences, and houses from the constant winds blow in from the Cajon Pass.488 In South Pasadena, there is a citriodora eucalyptus that was planted by John Muir in 1889.489 Phineas Banning built a home in Los Angeles in 1864 and planted a forest of red gums from Australian seeds given to him by missionary.490
The grandparents of all the blue gums planted in southern California are the blue gums found at Shadow Park in Canoga Park. They were planted by Alfred Workman in the 1870's from seed brought to him from his native Australia.491 Selected as the "Champion Tree" by the American Forestry Association was the red gum found at the Tracy Ranch in Kern County. In 1990 it was 171 feet tall and 15 feet in circumference. It was planted by Fanny Tracy in 1904 where at one time there were three acres of eucalyptus.492
In recent years, because of pulp and biomass fuel interest, a 250 acre
plantation was developed by Louisiana-Pacific Corporation near Willows,
California. On it are 50,000 eucalyptus to be used for waferboard and pulp.
In 1985, the largest grower of eucalyptus in California was Rod Kazanjian
of Delano. He has 1,240 acres in eucalyptus.493 In 1988, 1.8% of the hardwoods
in California was eucalyptus compared to 20.2% for California black oak.494
Much of the interest in eucalyptus has been in some fashion related to economics. Its fast growth, size, and utility commands a look at its possibilities. The profit road for the eucalyptus has not always been smooth. Some growers have had success, and indeed internationally, the eucalyptus industry is faring well. California eucalyptus history would be incomplete without some discussion of its economics.
Ellwood Cooper writing in 1876 addressed eucalyptus economics in plain terms. After five years of growth, 250 eucalyptus trees can produce 700 fence posts for a
total of $100, and the scrap wood would bring in another $100. This would be a total of $200. It cost $20 a year to plant, maintain, and harvest the 250 trees which makes a total expense of $100 for five years. One then would make $100 profit for the five years. At the end of 50 years, it would be $10,000 profit.495 A nice sum, but a long wait.
Eucalyptus normally was planted on unused or waste land, and when profits were made, it was additional money for the farmer. General Stratton of Alameda County planted 45 acres of blue gums in 1869 on hilly land east of Hayward. In 1880, he cut down 20 acres of the trees and sold them for $3,866 or about $17.50 an acre.496
Near Los Angeles during this same time, a grove of blue gum made a profit of $6,450 at the end of seven years or $9.50 per acre. It cost $7.50 for an acre worth of seedlings; labor to plant per acre was $5; yearly cultivation was $5 per acre; and rental of the land was $3 per acre each year. Total expense for seven years per acre was $38.50. The grove produced 35 cords per acre at $3 a cord, or $105 per acre total. Total expense was $3,734.50 and total takein was $10,185 which produced a profit of $6,450 at the end of seven years.497
In 1894, one writer summed it up this way:
The average market price of this wood is $3 per cord, and when a man gets a yield of $45 per acre, which includes the expense of chopping and loading upon the cars, he is doing better, and placing more cash to his credit in the bank, than any farmer in the Williamette or Sacramento Valleys with a yield of fifty bushels of wheat to the acre.498
Later in 1908, the tune had changed some. Now the thought was hardwood production instead of firewood as exemplified by this writer:
Wood as a fuel is rapidly becoming a luxury, and there is in the mind of this writer no reason for expecting any increase in use as fuel by the general public . . . (it is) unprofitable and unwise to enter upon Eucalyptus planting with the sole idea of raising wood for fuel . . . the future will be found in hardwood for wagon work, farm and other implements, railroad coach, and house furnishings . . .499
At the time of this prognosis, the boom was on and prospects were high.
Another writer in the same year talked of growing eucalyptus in rich agricultural soil: "Groves set out in fertile Los Angeles Valley have yielded from 50 to 80 cords at every cutting. Yields of 75 cords per acre every seven or eight years have been frequent." Large trees500 produced four to six cords or 1,500 to 3,000 feet of wood. Trees brought between $12 to $25 each.501 At this time, eucalyptus promoters were making some fabulous claims such as $2,500 planted today in eucalyptus would bring $25,000 every ten years with proper care.502
L. Micheaux of Compton was featured in promotional literature describing his fortune made in eucalyptus. His 30 acre plantation had been cut a third time and sold for cord wood. He cut six acres of 5-7 year old trees and sold the wood for $3,726 after expenses. He sold 500 trees for telegraph poles to a railroad for $2,800. He also thinned out his plantation and sold cord wood for $7 per cord. His profits from this and other eucalyptus wood was $8,626 for six acres of 6 1/2 years of growth. He sold 120 acres containing eucalyptus for $700 per acre near Santa Ana.503
For hardwood in 1910, eucalyptus would bring $25 per 1,000 feet of board on the stump. This was the price for 23 year old trees south of Hollywood. The trees were 125 to 150 feet tall and 36 inches in diameter. These would produce 1,500 to 2,000 feet of lumber each.504
W.E. Graves, representing the Eucalyptus Timber Company, visited Ellwood Cooper at his ranch near Santa Barbara in 1910. The intent was to promote the eucalyptus industry of which Cooper was California's very first strong proponent.
The two men were looking at a grove of 30 year old trees which were about 160 feet tall. Graves asked Cooper how much money would they get?
Well, there are sixteen trees in that clump. The third one on the right is 2 1/2 feet in diameter and measures over 2000 feet of lumber. It is safe to say the trees will average fully 1000 feet each. This would make 16,000 feet of lumber. I can sell the lumber any day F.O.B. cars here, cut and cured, at $100 per thousand feet, which would make the trees bring $1600.
(Graves asks) That is, of course, taking both the grower's and millman's profit, Mr. Cooper, would you not sell those trees just as they stand on the stump for say $1000 cash?
(Cooper replies) No, I would not, for I have quite a large acreage of Eucalyptus on my ranch, and I intend putting in a sawmill next year, and it will not cost me anything but $500 to cut and cure 16,000 feet of lumber.505
At this time, Hughes Manufacturing Company, the largest cabinet factory in southern California would pay $90 to $100 per 1,000 feet of eucalyptus lumber if properly cured.506 Hardwood profits were there if the eucalyptus wood could produce the desired products. Also at this time (boom period), a veneering plant and six sawing and manufacturing plants were established just to handle eucalyptus.507
Promotional companies during the boom period were planting land with eucalyptus and selling it for $250 an acre. The Forest Service did measurements on yield and felt that growers would get a fair return on their investment when paying not more than $60 per acre. Soon it was realized that ten-year old eucalyptus was suitable only for firewood.508
Eucalyptus firewood in 1924 was selling for $18 to $24 a cord delivered or $10 to $16 not delivered. A grower could hire out cutting and stacking for $8 to $12 a cord. But some eucalyptus firewood sold for just $1 a cord when competing with other woods such as oak or orchard wood. Transporting costs can be expensive especially when most eucalyptus groves are planted in isolated areas and on rough terrain.509
Cost of planting in 1912 was $25 to $40 an acre. By 1924 it had increased to $45 to $60 an acre. Owners of well-maintained groves estimated it cost $100 an acre to buy land, plant and cultivate for ten years. Even regarding transporting costs from difficult terrain, the grower is still better off using steep and unused land for eucalyptus than rich agricultural land.510
Eucalyptus four to six years old can be sawn for firewood. For maximum value, it is better though to wait until they are eight to ten years. Firewood can be sawn earlier from sprouted eucalyptus. For hardwood timber purposes, it takes twenty to thirty years to produce satisfactory quality, and much longer for superior grades.511
In 1988, to break even selling eucalyptus as biomass fuel, a grower would need to get $65 cord at least. On the stump it would run $26 to $40 a ton.512 Again, as has been the case throughout eucalyptus history, it is cheaper to use waste land or non-agriculture acreage for eucalyptus fuel production.513
SO MANY EUCALYPTUS
Nearly all the classic works on the eucalyptus have a section in them describing and identifying the various eucalyptus species. Baron Ferdinand von Mueller was the first to do so in his 1876 Australian work Eucalyptographia. In the same year Californian Ellwood Cooper published a work entitled Forest Culture and Eucalyptus Trees which included descriptions of the various eucalyptus species.
The next important California eucalyptus work appeared nearly two decades later in 1895 written by Abbott Kinney with the title Eucalyptus. This was the definitive publication of the time containing information on the various species and their relationship to the California environment. In 1902, Alfred McClatchie authored an important work entitled Eucalypts Cultivated in the United States. This study was published by the U.S. Bureau of Forestry and discussed the numerous species, their usage, and value.
Two important publications appeared in 1908. One came from the State Board of Forestry with the title A Handbook for Eucalyptus Planters, and the other from the University of California Experiment Station entitled Eucalyptus of California. The latter is of special interest in that it contains photographs and identification of eucalyptus foliage. The State Forester published in 1910 the work Eucalyptus: Its History, Growth and Utilization which was written by C.H. Sellers. It too had a section identifying California eucalyptus species. Finally, there are Woodbridge Metcalf's published works which contains identification of species.
Two recent Australian publications provide illustrations and descriptions of species. The most beautiful is the two volume work written and drawn by Stan Kelly and published in the United States in 1983 with the title Eucalypts. It is highly pictorial and contains descriptive text. The other publication is Forest Trees in Australia which was published in 1957 and contains photographs and descriptions.
There are over 600 eucalyptus species worldwide. The exact number is difficult to pinpoint because there are many hybrids that look similar.514 In 1900, the number found in the literature was generally 150 species.515 Australian botanist W.F. Blakely reported in 1955 that there were 522 species and 150 varieties.516 Once a set of identification criteria was established and scientists used new technology available to them, the figure easily looms over 600 species.
Two hundred eucalyptus species have been transported to other continents from Australia.517 There are at least 100 species growing in California.518 At one time the Santa Monica Forestry Station had 70 species alone.519 In 1924, Metcalf felt that he could identify between 60 to 75 species in California.520 Again, the reason for such ambiguity is that many species look alike.
Recently, Grace Heintz of Santa Monica, identified 500 eucalyptus species in California! She is a novice botanist who published a book entitled Trees of Santa Monica. How reliable is her information? Jim Bauml, senior botanist for the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum, consults with Heintz on identification. He prides Heintz and her
abilities, and notes that there is no one "who has a broader or deeper knowledge of eucalyptus." She is referred to as the "Johnny Appleseed of eucalyptus."521 Heintz is undoubtedly using a finer line of identification to locate that many. Because eucalyptus grow in tight knit groves, hybrids are numerous.
Identifying eucalyptus has always been a problem and so has the names applied to the various species. A common name can be applied to several species. For example, some
call all eucalyptus "blue gum" or "gum." Australian settlers grouped the eucalyptus into four types: gum, iron bark, stringy bark, and box or wooly butt.522 These general names are enough evidence to see the necessity of assigning scientific names to the species.
In this section information is given for only the most popular California species. This way the reader does not have to go to the major eucalyptus works for quick information.
These are the most popular California species:
E. amygdalina or black peppermint is the tallest of the eucalyptus with measurements over 400 feet in its native environment of Tasmania. The tallest recorded was 475 feet with a circumference of 130 feet. The tree was over 200 years old.523 The species was used in ships especially planks because of its length.524 It grows well in most of California even in the frosty inland valleys, but its height isn't as grand as in the Tasmanian virgin forests. It has dense foliage and branches droop. Its bark is rough and persistent, and has a distinctive peppermint scent. It seems to do well in poor soil.
E. camaldulensis, or red gum or Murray red gum or river gum, is the most widely distributed eucalyptus in Australia and hence an adaptable species. It can found in the San Joaquin Valley.525 In California it has denser foliage and has been confused with rostrata.526
E. citriodora, or lemon-scented gum, and also referred to as spotted gum, carries a strong lemon scent. Its scented oil produces citronella which is a fragrant perfume. It is a native of Queensland in northeast Australia. It doesn't take the frost well which makes it a coastal tree. There are some fine specimens on the University of California, Berkeley campus. Its barks is a smooth silvery-white.527
E. cornuta, or yate eucalyptus, is native of southwestern Australia. It has rough and furrowed bark, and grows best along the California coast. Cornuta does well in alkaline soils and is used to reclaim land by draining the alkali from the soil.528
E. corynocalyx, or sugar gum has leaves that are somewhat sweet and will leave a taste of almonds. It is fed to cattle and sheep, and does well in dry areas because it has a long taproot. It is from southern Australia and when used as posts or poles will resist ground rot the best. Sugar gum is more frost-tolerant than most species and is used as hardwood in construction. It has red foliage and round leaves. Sugar gum can be found along roadways and being used as windbreaks. A very adaptable species that grows up to 150 feet in height.529
E. dalyrmpleana, or white gum, comes from southeastern Australia and Tasmania. It is very similar to viminalis and resists frost well. It has rough bark at the base and smooth yellowish white bark elsewhere.530
E. globulus, or blue gum, is the most popular of the eucalyptus species planted in California. The words "eucalyptus" and "blue gum" are synonymous in the minds of many in that "blue gum" stands for all eucalyptus species. It is a native of Tasmania and Victoria, Australia and was first identified in 1792 by the French botanist Laubillardiere. Some trees in the virgin forest were over 300 feet tall. Its popularity stems from its very rapid growth and its use as windbreaks and firewood. If not seasoned properly, blue gum wood will warp and twist making it useless as a hardwood. In Australia, it was used in most construction especially in shipmaking, but the trees were from virgin forest and very old. Its widespread use in its native land misled Californians who were expecting their young trees to have the same qualities as the much older Australian trees. It grows best along the California coast because it likes damp climate. Frost will cripple it, but it resprouts quickly. It has been referred to as the "fever tree" because of its ability to dry up moisture in swampy lands thereby eliminating the breeding ground of the malaria-carrying mosquito. Eucalyptol is distilled from its leaves and used in medicines.531
E. marginata, or jarrah, was considered to be the most valuable lumber for wharves and pilings because of it ability to resist the teredo worm.532 It is a slow grower and can be found primarily in southern California with some groves in the San Francisco Bay Area. It comes from the southwestern corner of Australia.
E. obliqua, or messmate stringybark or messmate, grows in the southeastern corner of Australia and Tasmania. It has served the Australians well because of its many uses and its vigorous growth. It resembles European ash trees and was called "ash" by the early settlers in Australia. It has reached 225 feet in height in its native land. It grows well along the California coast because of its need for moisture.533
E. resinifera, or mahogany gum or red mahogany, has been used extensively in Australia and somewhat in the United States for mahogany inside railroad cars. It can be found along the east coast of Australia and does its best along the California coast.534
E. robusta, or swamp mahogany or swamp messmate, has rough red bark. It can be found primarily in southern California and grows well in low wet ground especially in alkali soil in the San Joaquin Valley. In Australia, it is found in New South Wales and has been used in shipbuilding and for various hardwood implements.535
E. rostrata, or red gum, grows extensively in California. It can tolerate frost, drought, and heat. It is durable and is used for a multitude of products. It is used for posts, piles, shipbuilding, and construction especially in southeast Australia in the early pioneer years. Red gum is the most versatile eucalyptus and can grow in all types of soils and environments. It is as hard as iron when dried.536
E. rudis, or desert gum, is a medium size tree of 75 to 100 feet in height. It is found in the southwest corner of Australia and is known there as swamp gum. It grows well along rivers but also likes dry climate.537
E. sideroxylon, or red ironbark, comes from southeast Australia, and its wood is dense and durable. It resists frost and heat. It is used extensively throughout California especially along highways.
E. tereticornis, or gray gum (or forest red gum in Australia), is both frost and drought resistant. Because of its environmental adaptability, it grows well in the central valley of California. In Australia, it has had wide use, from shipbuilding to posts, because of it is durable in water and ground. It was used reliably by early Australian settlers.538
E. viminalis, or manna gum, has grown over 300 feet tall in Australia. The name "manna" was given to it because it secretes a gum that becomes white thin flakes eaten by children of Australian settlers and Aborigines. It is not very durable, but it can tolerate frost. It is found in southeastern Australia and in Tasmania. In California is seen mostly in the San Joaquin Valley. It is a favorite food of koalas.539
This concludes the study of eucalyptus in California. The poem "Eucalyptus,
II" by William J. Margolis is a fitting summation of the character of this
marvelous unique tree.
Yes, Eucalyptus, you just stand
and sway in the wind, suck
the breast of earth,
breathe the sun,
yes, Eucalyptus, you just grow.
In rain you soak it up,
in calm you do not move,
& when the wind is fierce
you flex & gyre & snap a twig
& shed leaves all over the neighbors.
No, Eucalyptus, I'm not so flexible
as you -- I drown in these rains
and these gales lacerate my flesh
and my soul splits and shatters
all over the neighbors.
Yes, Eucalyptus, teach me
your stolidity -- I'll get
the hang of it yet. 540