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Robert Sward

Ten Years Under the Eucalyptus -
The Tree That Destroyed California

 

In wildfires, the tops or crowns of the trees blast off
like miniature cannons, causing firey crowns to become
airborne, carrying seeds many hundreds of feet.

--from "Blue Gum Eucalyptus and the Santa Cruz
Heritage Tree Ordinance"

It is therefore not surprising that everywhere the eucalypts
grow there is evidence of past fire.

--from "Eucalypt Ecology," Forestry Commission of Tasmania

These are heritage trees. There's a $500. fine if you cut one
down. It's the law.

--Santa Cruz City Arborist

 

It was all a mistake
the tree that destroyed California
stands to burn down our house.
Came from Australia,
its oily, reddish bark
a clothing of finest fluffy timber,
a dream, the California dream
	drought resistant,
	resistant to insects,
	fast-growing
But no good for lumber (too brittle),
no good for windbreak (blasting crown of fire
	torching everything around it),
no good in a city (a source of urban wildfire),
no good in the country (secreting toxins,
it destroys all native plants)
Gee, lets bring it to California and see how it does.
And so, a hundred years ago, arborists brought it home
Ta da! The tree from hell,
tree that needs fire--BOOM!
to propagate, seeds, little eucalypts
shooting off in all directions.
Good news for pyromaniacs,
a whole tree, oily sap aboil,
exploding in one big Whoosh!
That then survives what it destroys.
Tree that grows three feet a year,
in ten years covering
twice its former land mass,
then doubling, and doubling again.
Blue Gum, the Waste Land as tree,
Blue Gum that smells of rot and Noxzema,
a little poison oak at its base and nothing else.
"Climax vegetation," end-of-the-line tree,
death to the host vegetation,
death without regeneration.
"I rise in flame," says the Blue Gum Eucalyptus,
"I rise in flame, but you don't."
Tree that is the phoenix,
tree that is the fire,
tree that is the ashes,
($500. fine for cutting one down)
"Gotcha," says Mr. Blue Gum, "Gotcha!"

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