Listener Ruta Aiono wanted to know: “Why are there so many eucalyptus trees in the Bay Area?”
Eucalyptus trees are here because early settlers brought them from Australia. Apparently they weren’t fans of the knobby oaks and shrubs they saw on parts of the California coast, and they thought tall trees would improve the landscape.
The trees thrived and looked nice, but the wood splintered easily and wasn’t very good for lumber. So, the Bay Area Eucalypts grew into the towering groves we have today.
For a more personal take, I went to Australian transplant Dr. Nathalie Nagalingum, a curator of botany at the California Academy of Sciences. She says the smell of the Eucalyptus trees here reminds her of home.
She’s not a Eucalyptus specialist — she studies ferns, cycads, and other species that often grow underneath Eucalyptus trees in their native range. These species are noticeably absent when she walks through Eucalyptus groves here in California.
Since Eucalypts aren’t part of the Bay Area’s native ecosystem, some think they should be removed. Others say they’re part of the modern landscape and should stay.
While reporting this story, some people condescendingly asked me why we can’t just bring a bunch of koalas in to solve our little Eucalyptus problem.
But koalas aren’t locusts. They have a very slow metabolism and are famously picky eaters. No matter how adorable an invasion of them would be, they’re never going to have the energy to mow down our Eucalyptus trees. So stop asking.
The trees aren’t going anywhere any time soon.