Native plant advocates attempt to support their claim about the flammability of eucalypts by citing specific characteristics such as shreddy bark and volatile oils. Shreddy bark and volatile oils are characteristics of many plants, both native and non-native. They are not characteristics exclusive to eucalypts:
“The [chaparral] community has evolved over millions of years in association with fires, and in fact requires fire for proper health and vigor…Not only do chaparral plants feature adaptations that help them recover after a fire, but some characteristics of these plants, such as fibrous or ribbonlike shreds on the bark, seem to encourage fire. Other species contain volatile oils.” (page 341, A Natural History of California, Schoenherr, UC Press, 1992)
Madrone and Manzanita are examples of native plants with “ribbonlike shreds on the bark” that are highly flammable. Coyote brush and bay laurels are examples of native species which contain highly flammable oils.
Anyone with knowledge of the natural history of California could provide any number of such invidious comparisons between native and non-native plants with respect to their flammability. We hope the examples we have provided illustrate that flammability characteristics of plants are unrelated to whether the plants are native or non-native. The claim that non-native plants are more prone to fire than native plants is fallacious.
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