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Just because trees aren’t native doesn’t mean they don’t belong here

James K. Sayre Oakland
Monday January 21, 2002


Your recent front page story, “Resident urges city to prevent tree tragedies” (The Berkeley Daily Planet, 17 Jan.) was interesting. The graceful and beautiful Blue Gum trees (Eucalyptus globulus) have been thriving in our East Bay hills for well over a century. In the last two decades, a few shrill native plant fanatics in California have been spewing their venom on Eucalyptus trees. They dream of turning the botanical clock back to before the pre-Spanish colonial days. They claim that these useful trees are “invasive,” limit plant and animal diversity, litter and constitute a fire hazard. And now we hear that these “gentle giants” are supposedly going to topple over in the next still breeze. 

These trees have successfully reached the age of several hundred years in their native Australia. Actually, Blue Gums have long been used as windbreaks in both agricultural and suburban areas in California. They have helped to make the summer climates in the Bay Area much less windy and thus more pleasant.  

The Blue Gum, Eucalyptus globulus, is naturalized in coastal California and now provides unique habitat for a wide variety of animals includes many birds, mammals, reptiles and insects. The graceful tall trees provide good nesting habitat for hawks, eagles and vultures. The trees also provide food and shelter for the Monarch Butterfly in the winter.  

Since many of our native Oak trees (Quercus species) and Pine trees (Pinus species) are currently under attack from a variety of plant pathogens, in the future we may want to select our urban ornamental trees from the more than five hundred species of Eucalyptus.  

Perhaps those residents of the east bay that detest and fear the Eucalyptus trees should consider relocating to a tree-less region such as the Mojave Desert, the Sonoran Desert or the Great Plains. They could then sing that old song, “Oh, give me a home where the Eucalypts don’t roam...”. 


James K. Sayre