Eucalyptus is a very large genus that consists of over 600 species, which natively live in Australia, Tasmania, and some surrounding islands, in a range of soil conditions and temperatures (though prolonged frost is usually detrimental). “William Wolfskill planted five specimens outside his house… An agricultural experimenter who made a fortune growing oranges, walnuts, and wine grapes, Wolfskill must have recognized the eucalyptus’ potential to upset the commercial timber market,” Nathan writes. Similarly to Chris, Peter pointed out that Southern California’s native vegetation is flammable in its own right. After a fire, many eucalypt species will sprout epicormic shoots along their entire trunks. By subscribing you become an AG Society member, helping us to raise funds for conservation and adventure projects. Removal of the trees has been recommended largely due to eucalyptus fire damage but also because they are … The young wood didn’t even make useable fence posts or railroad track ties, both of which decayed rapidly. However, the aroma of burning eucalyptus has also been described as "medicinal," which can alter the flavor of baked goods and other foods. So now, more than a century later, eucalypts grow tall throughout a lot of California, waiting for the next fire. California hillsides were ablaze last year and it looks like a similar disaster may occur again this season. Subscribe & Save up to $49 A great deal. By 1950, eucalyptus trees were primarily grown in California as ornamentals or windbreaks. Highly flammable eucalypt oils Chris added that while the oils secreted by eucalyptus trees are highly flammable, one particular study from 2012, published in the International Journal of Forestry Research , showed little difference in fire risk between pines and Eucalyptus in southern USA. Ellwood Cooper’s role in spreading eucalyptus: Ellwood Cooper, educator, entrepreneur, and one of the key individuals who helped the eucalyptus take off in California, is a local legend here in Santa Barbara. Perhaps the most amazing fire adaptation is that some species actually require fire for their seeds to sprout. Bark up the right tree. A Decrease font size. Horticulturists also wanted to better study such novelties, to understand them scientifically and see what their potential economic value might be. For example, they compete with native plants for nutrients. Changes to the fire regime: The oily resins characteristic of eucalyptus, are much more ignitable compared to other tree species, and burn at higher fire intensities. The blue gum, a mid-sized eucalyptus reaching around 150 to over 200 feet tall, is the most common eucalyptus in California. Trew Knowledge. That aside, today’s conservationists tend to think that plants from elsewhere are always a bad idea. Are Australian eucalypts to blame for California’s wildfires? Because this was a unique event in California, with which there was little experience, the initial assumption was that … The other claim the author of the Reddit post made is that, after allegedly duping Southern Californian farmers into purchasing eucalyptus seeds, Australians forgot to mention  it would take over 100 years for the tree to fully mature. But when he came to sell the timber, it was found that the trees were too young to make suitable wood; the young wood had an irregular grain and it bent, cracked, and shrank when dried. “Introducing select Eucalyptus species into the fire-prone landscape of the southern Coastal Plain raised the spectre of altered fire behaviour and greater risk of destructive wildfire, given the nature of wildfires in Australia where Eucalyptus are native. Eucalyptus is also a source of quality pulp. Throughout the state’s lowlands, eucalyptus trees achieved the stature of millennial sequoias in merely one century. But investors were soon to discover that the eucalyptus weren’t all they’d hoped them to be. Blue gum can be invasive in California, aggressively spreading from its original planting if enough water is present, such as in the form of fog. image captionBurning eucalyptus bark can be carried by the wind and spread wildfires. 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