This is Gallup’s favorite part of the job, he says—choosing which trees to remove, which trees to keep. “We’re trying to change fire behavior,” he says, “to make it easier to put the fire out, to give people more time to evacuate.”. Second, Maloney says removing the eucalyptus would also remove windbreaks.. Along with the sweet medicine smell of the trees, there is the warm scent of sawdust and a sour hint of exhaust. (510) 528-8550, Subscription Customer Service: The 20-odd protesters—mostly white, mostly gray-haired—marched in a circle, holding up hand-lettered signs and photographs of butterflies and trees. The eucalypti grow rapidly, and many species attain great height. Eucalyptus fire hazards are also cited in efforts to remove the trees. Species Other than Australian Eucalyptus Tree - Stringybark Stringybark is a group of Eucalyptus trees with thick, fibrous bark which can be pulled off in strings. Grass also earns a 1, while oak/bay woodland earns a 6 and scrub vegetation earns a 4 to 8. The heat of the fire forms a convection column, with 60-mile-per-hour winds that rip burning strips of bark from the trees and toss them upward. It looks scrubby and multitextured compared to the stand of blue gum across the road. Seasoning refers to splitting the wood soon after the tree is cut so that the wood can dry out. Like many of the trees in this forest, it was cut after the hard frost of 1972. From the brush down at the bottom of the gully, there is the whine of a chain saw. The ability to retain the trunk gives the eucalyptus species a jump start on regrowing from the ashes. And he imagines it catching fire. Tucked away inside a rolled-up strip of bark, a fire might live for close to an hour and fly 20 miles. Its native decomposers are missing too, meaning fallen leaves and bark decay slower than usual; here, eucalyptus groves can accumulate 30 tons of debris or more per acre. In many parts of the state, people planted eucalyptus for that express purpose; the wind inside a forest might have less than half the wind speed it would in the open. Gallup, who has gray hair and thin-frame glasses, is dressed head-to-toe in navy and wears black leather fire boots. “It’s an amazing just-so story,” he says of the possibility: “Eucalypts evolved to burn their neighbors.”. A former assistant general manager for the East Bay Regional Park District, Kent is now on the board of directors at the Claremont Canyon Conservancy, which worked with UC Berkeley to convert the downhill side of the road to native vegetation. It’s clear that fire benefits the trees. Discover eucalyptus. However, a freshly cut or still growing pine tree can resist combustion for a great amount of time, depending on the intensity of the fire and whether or not it is intentionally set. Many of the hills on the east side of the Caldecott Tunnel are covered in grass, speckled with drooping oak, much as the landscape above Berkeley and Oakland would’ve looked before Oakland developer Frank Colton Havens planted them with eucalyptus. Though it was sunny and beginning to get warm on the downhill side of the road, here it is cool. Now imagine a fire. Jack Gescheidt, a fervent euc-defender and photographer who makes pictures of nudes posing with trees, told me that he conducted an informal test, lighting both wet and dry leaves from blue gum and bay laurel trees over his stovetop. Specialized reproductive structures called "epicormic shoots" sprout from buds on the bushfire damaged trunk of a Eucalyptus tree, about two years after the 2003 Eastern Victorian alpine bushfires. Broadly, the protest was about the Sierra Club’s perceived hypocrisy; the environmentalist organization is also suing FEMA as a sort of countersuit to the Hills Conservation Network’s pro-euc suit. Quick facts. In front of us on the uphill side of the road is what looks like a group of seven trees but is really a single tree with multiple boles. A strong wind begins blowing over the hills from the east. As intriguing as the theory is, Bowman thinks it goes too far, failing the Occam’s-razor test: It’s simpler to imagine that eucalyptus evolved with oily leaves because those oils deter insects and koalas; they evolved peeling bark because the falling bark takes parasitic epiphytes with it; and the trees quickly resprout en masse after fire because they’ve evolved to tolerate fire, not to enjoy it. Like Maloney, he says he got involved after researching the FEMA plan and coming to the conclusion that removing trees would make the area more fire prone, not less. 3. “The forests are beautiful. The natural detritus under the tree is resistant to microbial or fungal break down due to the oils. Eucalyptus pulverulenta, the silver mountain gum is loved by the florists. It argued that clearing trees would actually make the hills more flammable. Near Anglers Rest, Victoria, Australia. Many eucalyptus species are available as landscaping plants. “But the thing that’s most concerning is the volume of material it can produce.”. There is no single, knockout paper or study that shows that blue gums are drastically more dangerous fire-hazards than other local species, that’s true, but that’s probably too much to ask anyway. So do all the experts I spoke with, including the ones with no prior knowledge of the FEMA grant. Sign up for our newsletter. What do you think?’”, “Eucalyptus is flammable. Though the fire started in grass, the trees were blamed for the severity of the disaster, by some estimates contributing almost three-quarters of the fire’s energy. The trees that remain standing are big and widely spaced. There is an art to it, he says. I visited Signpost 29 three times while reporting this story. Gum trees make up the majority of trees in the country. “Eucalyptus is flammable,” says Scott Stephens, a UC Berkeley fire ecologist. Efforts are underway to eradicate the introduced species and return woodlands to the native species. Like the other Australians I spoke with, Sullivan called the Bay Area blue gums “supersized,” treated to better soils than those in nutrient-poor Australia and untrimmed by their native pests. Near the crest of the hill, we come upon a large blue gum with seven boles. There’s no exact number.” When he starts a thinning project, he walks the grove and imagines how it might look without this or that tree, how the canopy would look, how it would look in a decade, in three decades. The natural oils of the eucalyptus tree make it extremely flammable. It might look bad for a while, but with proper management nonnative grasses and brush would be replaced in a decade or two in most areas by native trees, he says. I asked her why the consortium gave blue gum a high ignitability rating as well as a high hazard rating—what studies was that based on? However, eucalyptus trees are difficult to split because they tend to twist as they grow, and the fiber is stringy. To find out where that rating came from, I followed a twisted path from document to document, each taking me a little further back in time. I’m going to live up to that promise.” The ground around the tree is littered with its bark and leaves, inches deep in places. According to both the FEMA environmental impact statement and a 2016 study of blue gums in California by ecologist Kristina M. Wolf and biologist Joseph M. DiTomaso, blue gum has an ignition rating of 1 out of 10, with one being the most easily ignited. 888-422-9628 Header illustrations by Jane Kim, InkDwell, Bay Nature Institute We walk uphill along Claremont Avenue, then hike up into the eucalyptus grove. We stop at a turnout and hike up a path through tall grass that opens into a field. Are Essential Oils Flammable? In the event that a fire does destroy the aboveground parts of the tree, it can send up new shoots from lignotubers, nutrient-filled organs hidden among its roots. There are around 700 different species, mostly found in Australia and southeast Asia but several varieties grow in Europe, America and Africa. “But I can use my professional judgment. Bay Nature connects the people of the San Francisco Bay Area to our natural  world and motivates people to solve problems with nature in mind. The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. This makes the tree’s oil a wonderful antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory, but the unbroken down material is like using kindling to start a fire. Although the view didn’t change, I saw something different each time through the eyes of the person I was with. The air begins to smell of fresh sawdust. “This in here is a disaster waiting to happen,” he concludes. It’s the same reason that crumpled newspaper will ignite more easily than a log—a fire requires oxygen, heat, and fuel, and grass and balled-up paper are airier and easier to heat to the point of ignition. As Australian wildfires demonstrate, eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus spp. But even under the worst conditions, there is the possibility of containing a grass fire, he says. “This is my favorite tree,” Grassetti says, giving it a slap on the trunk. Eucalyptus trees are common in California and the warmer states of the United States. When it is harvested, it is cut rather than uprooted, and so grows back, and with speed, making it a renewable materi… Native plants, on the other hand, having evolved here over millennia, are better adapted to local conditions, they say. These varieties are majorly used for ornamental purposes because of the shapes and colors of their flowers! zachstgeorge.com. The gums tower over us. The wet leaves didn’t burn, but the dry leaves of both species flared impressively and smoked up my apartment. All the while, the trees continue to excrete clouds of evaporated eucalyptus oil. This is one of the areas owned by UC Berkeley, where all of the eucalypts would be removed. The term Eucalypt includes trees which are amongst the closely related genera of Corymbia and Angophora as well as Eucalyptus. (It’s also why, even in the hottest fire, it’s almost always a tree’s branches and leaves burning, not its trunk.) It is true, he says, that—as Maloney argues—a fire would spread through the grass covering the hillside on this side of the road much faster than through the eucalyptus opposite. The forest between us and him is already mostly thinned. San Mateo County, the Coastside Fire Protection District, CalFire and the RCD have been working to clean up the dense trees and fuel loads for more than a decade. Underneath are small oaks, bays, and smaller shrubby native species. Native species and grasses produce sparks and firebrands too, Stephens says, but not of the same quantity and quality as eucalyptus. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place. Eucalyptus Tree Varieties to Try. “Those areas are really hard to restore,” says Lech Naumovich, a local restoration ecologist and consultant who has worked extensively in Claremont Canyon. This summer, even without rain, some of the trails were so slushy they were nearly impassable. This “shaded fuel-break,” as he calls it, should help slow down fires. Some eucalyptus varieties are decorative and iconic. From unclear comparisons of leaf chemistry, we are led down progressively less rewarding or elucidating scientific rabbit holes. The dead bark and fallen branches are also flammable. “But the thing that’s most concerning is the volume of material it can produce.” But now, standing by Grassetti’s favorite tree, even this most damning of blue gum statistics seems woefully abstract. Essential oils such as tea tree, lavender and citrus oils such as lemon, orange, lime and others have a flash point of about 50 – 60 degrees Celsius so they are classified under Class 3 Flammable Liquids. Eucalypts are well adapted for periodic fires – in fact most species are dependent on them for spread and regeneration. But the thing that’s most concerning is the volume of material it can produce.” As its shred-like bark is considered flammable, keeping this debris cleaned up is preferable. Several of the people I spoke with were worried about the use of herbicide as a way to keep the eucalyptus from resprouting. It wasn’t based on any specific studies, she told me, but was rather an agreement among the experts—as she recalled it, a sort of, “This is what we think. We pass through the tunnel and drive into the hills. Removal of the trees has been recommended largely due to eucalyptus fire damage but also because they are taking the place of native species. But the frost didn’t really kill the trees, only made them retreat back down into their roots. Sutro Forest is an even more obvious case — it’s a cloud forest, and pretty wet all year. I met him that morning at the park district fire station at the edge of Tilden Regional Park, and we’ve driven together into the park, stopping first at this overlook along Grizzly Peak Boulevard. The eucalyptus tree, native to Australia, and now common in other parts of the world, is an exotic-looking and aromatic tree. Every story from Bay Nature magazine is the product of a team of people dedicated to connecting our readers to the world around them and increasing environmental literacy. In a nutshell, yes. Eucalyptus can vary in form from a short shrub to a tall, evergreen tree. Now the flames on the ground are 30 feet high and even higher off the boughs, roaring like a jet engine. He says the FEMA plan ignores both the task force’s findings and good sense—that removing the trees would actually make the hills more liable to burn, as exemplified by this field, once covered in blue gums, now thick with grass and thistles. Now it is regrown with native willows, bays, oaks—the species that advocates of the FEMA plan insist will, with some human help, replace the eucalypts—as well as redwoods, nonnative thistle, fennel, and broom. Although blue gums tend not to invade new territory, they are salt-the-earth occupiers: Along with shading out other species, their leaf litter leaches chemicals that suppress growth of native plants, even after the trees are removed. Gallup parks his truck and we get out to walk down the fire trail. Eucalyptus oil catches fire very easily, and bush fires can travel quickly through the oil-rich air of the tree crowns. “Every piece of vegetation is flammable,” he says. They're poor in biodiversity but contributed to the expansion of forest cover. If desired, you can collect some seed once it falls, and then plant it in another area of your yard or in a container. You get away from stress, smell the smells, see the birds. Eucalyptus gunnii has interesting cream and brown bark and can grow to 80 feet tall.Young trees produce bluish-gray leaves, while older trees produce silverfish-green leaves. Others were concerned that the FEMA plan was cover for native species restoration advocates. But what if you have one in your property and it is also causing distress and worry for the danger that it might cause? So did you really get a net fuel reduction? Yet Rice, who helped plan UC Berkeley’s portion of the FEMA application, says that factor is mitigated by the higher moisture content of bay laurel leaves. Leaves or other components, meanwhile, can tell you only so much about the whole, and individual trees only so much about the forest. Leaf litter is high in phenolics, which prevents breakdown by fungi and accumulates as … Bowman says the burn-your-neighbors theory, inspired by a 1970 paper by American forester Robert W. Mutch, suggests intent: By this reading, the eucalypts’ oil-rich leaves evolved to ignite easily; their peeling bark evolved to be carried aloft by the wind off a fire, spreading the blaze; they evolved to resprout quickly after a fire from both seed and shoot not just because they evolved in a landscape that burns frequently, but because, in some flori-sadomasochistic way, they want to be burnt. In addition, eucalyptus tree care includes annual pruning (in summer) to control top growth and their overall height. “I love trees,” he says. This is because the eucalyptus has displaced natives and it changes soil composition where it grows, altering other life forms as it does so. And in the bigger picture, simply thinning the trees, as the park district is doing on their properties, isn’t a great solution either. Eucalyptus is a highly flammable tree and particularly dangerous to have in a wildfire prone areas. “But there’s a lot of fuel there, too. And then somehow—maybe a spark from a car, maybe a tossed cigarette—the whole dry, airy mess catches fire. He has also independently researched the costs of eucalyptus removal and management. “They’re absolutely dangerous plants,” he says. Even a small fire can transform to a major wildfire in eucalyptus forests, due to the huge amount of leaf litter, the oil-rich leaves on the trees, and flammable bark. How to grow eucalyptus. The main constituent of Eucalyptus oil is Eucalyptol it has a flash point of 46°C so easily burns. The high oil content of eucalyptus leaves also means that they burn hotter than less oily leaves. 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Oil has a higher energy density and lower ignition point than cellulose (the stuff plant cell walls and Mini Wheats are made of), and in a hot fire, these oils can boil out of the leaf and then ignite, which is why blue gums have a reputation for exploding. By his reading, everything good about the eucalyptus across the street is matched or exceeded by the native species on this side: The native species are less flammable, use less water, collect fog, block wind, and provide more valuable habitat. These hardy plants have delightfully scented, volatile oil in all parts of the plant. The trunk can sprout new limbs and regenerate the plant unlike other types of trees, which have to re-sprout from the roots. We target brush.” He studied forestry and says he can understand the attachment people feel. “This one I made a promise to, that I was not going to let any harm come to it. The differences between the three are related to the leaf positioning, the flower stalks and the bark.The term gum tree has become the common term for all three eucalypts whether or not the trunk exudes a … The Sierra Club suit argues that the plan should remove more nonnative trees, that leaving eucalyptus and Monterey pine standing would mean prohibitively expensive maintenance, and that removing the trees would allow native species to flourish. He was head of fire prevention at the U.S. Army base in Oakland at the time of the 1991 fire and was one of several dozen people on the Forestry and Revegetation subcommittee of the Task Force on Emergency Preparedness and Community Restoration, convened by Mayor Elihu Harris of Oakland in 1992. The real question, Maloney says, is “flammable compared to what?”. Not just any fire, but the fire, the fire that all this is about. This accelerates the eucalyptus fire hazards in a region and discourages firefighting efforts. Like dry grass, blue gum leaves have a high surface-area-to-volume ratio and tend to build up in well-aerated piles. -Brad Gallup, EBRPD fire captain. A tech entrepreneur, Grassetti lives in the hills near Claremont Canyon. Many species of eucalyptus both tolerate fire, hiding from the flames behind thick bark, and depend on it to open their seed pods. The Vicks VapoRub smell of blue gum forests comes from the oils in their foliage, oils that fire ecologist consultant Carol Rice says can be as much as a fifth of a eucalyptus leaf’s dry weight. Like the other Australian fire ecologists and eucalyptus experts I spoke with, though, Bowman called the genus in general, and blue gum in particular, extremely flammable. We target grass. “Every piece of vegetation is flammable. As we walk the downhill side of the road, Maloney points out what he sees as potential hazards: dry wood chips, brush that should be cleared out, a thistle-covered hillside, more sun, more wind. Furthermore, the majority of the blue gum litter is small sticks, bark, and leaves, collectively known as “fine fuels.” These fine fuels are the source of a forest fire’s power, Sullivan says, easily ignited and quickly consumed. They are flammable: Being rich in oils, eucalyptus trees are highly flammable. Gallup is characteristically diplomatic. Sign up to get all the latest gardening tips! “We’re in our infancy in understanding how flammability can be practically measured and scaled up,” he says. The ground below this tree is littered with its rooster-tail leaves and cinnamon-stick tubes of bark. We drive next to Signpost 29, for another view of the possible future. Rice was a participant at the 1995 meeting. Share your love of Bay Area nature with a Bay Nature gift subscription and save over 30%! The East Bay Regional Park District is taking something of a middle approach to fire prevention in the eucalyptus groves it manages, thinning the trees rather than clearing them outright. “I love eucalyptus,” Bowman says. The German-born botanist Ferdinand Jacob Heinrich von Mueller migrated to Australia in 1847. The state’s first planting of eucalyptus was made by William G. Walker at his Golden Gate Nursery at Fourth and Folsom Streets, San … -Brad Gallup. Their concerns echoed some of those of the 13,000 people who wrote comments on the first draft of an environmental impact statement FEMA prepared ahead of the grant. To really know with scientific certainty, you’d have to compare fuel moisture content, wind speed, leaf chemistry, caloric content, and ignitability. If there is a single factor that makes the blue gums a fire hazard, it is this. The costs of eucalyptus spring up on either side, their leaves reach their boiling and! 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