Basing our opinion of eucalypts on experience rather than rumors

We received a comment from a reader in Wales that prompted us to visit her website, Clegyr  Boia.  She tells a story that contains an important lesson for us:   to observe the performance of plants in our gardens and to base our evaluation of them on actual experience rather than preconceived judgments.

Eucalyptus leucoxylon ‘Rosea’ Wikimedia Commons Jean Tosti

In retelling this story, we shall call the owner of Clegyr Boia by the location of her property.  Clegyr Boia’s favorable opinion of eucalyptus trees is based on her visit to Australia in 1980.  As we did, she could see the beauty of the eucalyptus forest in Australia.

When she bought her property in Wales, she viewed it as an opportunity to develop an artistically beautiful landscape that she knew would include eucalyptus trees.  She planted eucalypts around one of her art installations because the blue color and graceful curves of their leaves enhanced her rock sculptures.  She planted other species of eucalypts in areas of the garden to shield them against the wind.

Soon after she began to plant eucalypts on her property, she was visited by friends and neighbors who were concerned about the introduction of eucalypts to their area.  They warned against the invasive properties of eucalyptus.  They claimed that nothing would grow under the eucalypts and that they would not provide food for wildlife.

Clegyr Boia’s initial response was to remove the eucalypts she had planted.  Then she had second thoughts.  She realized that her garden was full of non-native plants that were thriving and were providing valuable food for the denizens of her home, including her.  Since much of the food we eat is non-native, she decided that nativity is not a suitable criterion for banning a plant from her garden.  She decided to observe the eucalypts closely and decide based on their actual performance in her garden if they needed to be removed.

Some years later, she considers the eucalypts in her garden important contributors to its beauty.  They have demonstrated that other plants are welcome in the shelter of their canopy and that insects make good use of them.  They have also been remarkably resilient in salty, windy conditions.  When they have died back after heavy storms, they have soon resprouted.   Everything in her garden must make its own way, including the eucalypts, thereby proving their sustainability in this harsh setting. 

Native blackthorn grows next to eucalyptus. Photo courtesy Clergy Boia

We invite our readers to visit the Clegyr Boia website for the complete story, as well as a historical review of the migration of eucalypts all over the world and speculation about why they have acquired a negative reputation.

We tell this story because we admire Clegyr Boia’s commitment to her trees.  She listened to her neighbors, but she also made the commitment to her trees to watch their behavior in her garden.  She based her ultimate judgment of their suitability on their actual performance in her garden.  They have rewarded her patience with their success.

2 thoughts on “Basing our opinion of eucalypts on experience rather than rumors”

  1. Interesting post. I am glad that your website is getting the attention it deserves, now even from Wales! You provide an important resource for information people can trust.

  2. I love your blog. I think that you are absolutely right about the non-native species being part of the natural landscape. That’s why I’ve been planting Kudzu all around the bay area. I miss seeing it in the south, so I thought, “if everyone else can bring part of their culture here, why can’t I?” I can’t wait to see it’s beautiful vines soon.
    Webmaster: Whoa…that seems kind of extreme. We don’t know much about Kudzu because it’s not a local plant, but we certainly know its reputation. I hope you’re not planting it in public spaces. That would be as inappropriate as the destructive acts of volunteer native plant advocates we write about on the Million Trees blog. If you’re planting it on your own property, I hope you’re watching it carefully to observe its behavior in our local conditions. That would be a legitimate experiment because we cannot generalize about the invasive properties of plants. A plant that is invasive in a certain setting isn’t necessarily invasive in a different setting. Still…please be responsible about where you plant something with a reputation for being very invasive. Let’s not go from one extreme to another.

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