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Prejudice destroys more eucalypts

January 10, 2012

We don’t usually talk about tree destruction projects on private land.  We focus on public lands because, as taxpayers we’re paying for those projects and we consider ourselves the owners of public land.  We also respect private property rights.  We’ll make an exception to that general rule today to tell you about the eradication of eucalypts at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.

We learned about this project from one of the cemetery’s periodic mailings to its neighbors.  They informed their neighbors that they planned to plant more trees because they observed that fewer shrubs grew under the canopy of trees.  They also said they “prefer to plant using what grows well in the Bay Area climate with minimal water and intervention.”  Finally, they concluded in what seemed a non sequitur, “We intend to remove unwanted eucalyptus trees that border the cemetery.  Although they provide a useful neighborhood screen and help to architecturally define our outdoor landscape, eucalyptus is a damaging pest to the cemetery.”

Eucalyptus, Mountain View Cemetery

Having received this warning, we weren’t surprised when the eucalypts began to disappear from the cemetery.  The lone specimens in prominent areas in the cemetery seem to us a terrible loss.

Few trees grow more successfully than eucalypts in the San Francisco Bay Area.  They require no supplemental water.  They live for several hundred years in Australia and have grown here for over one-hundred years.  They are not invasive.  We don’t think they deserve to be called a “pest.” 

Gone, but not forgotten

The Mountain View Cemetery was planned by Frederick Law Olmstead in 1863 and building began shortly thereafter.  Although there are native Coast Live Oaks and Redwoods, according to an arborist docent they were all planted after the cemetery was built.  This is as we would expect because, “Vegetation before urbanization in Oakland was dominated by grass, shrub, and marshlands that occupied approximately 98% of the area.  Trees in riparian woodlands covered approximately 1.1% of Oakland’s preurbanized lands…”* 

The vast majority of trees in the cemetery are not native.  The original tree-lined avenue through the center of the cemetery was planted with Magnolias by Olmstead.  There are many stunning specimens of non-native trees:  Dawn Redwood, Copper Beech, Ginkos, etc. 

Ginko in the fall, Mountain View Cemetery

Eucalyptus is not our favorite tree.  We would probably choose to plant many other species before we would consider planting eucalyptus.  However, the decision to plant a tree is very different from the decision to destroy a tree.  We see no justification for destroying mature, healthy trees sequestering thousands of tons of carbon.  The prejudice against eucalyptus remains a mystery to us.

Edited to add:  The Oakland Tribune reported on March 4, 2012 that many neighbors of the Mountain View Cemetery object to the destruction of the eucalyptus trees.  The Tribune reported that the neighbors are concerned about the loss of habitat for birds.   The cemetery claims  they are destroying the eucalyptus because they are flammable.  As we have said many times on Million Trees, this is one of many fabricated fictions used by native plant advocates to justify the eradication of non-native plants and trees.    


*Nowak, David, “Historical vegetation change in Oakland and its implication for urban forest management,” Journal of Arboriculture, 19(5): September 1993

3 Comments leave one →
  1. John permalink
    February 28, 2012 10:08 am

    Do you have any resources for the effective management of Eucalyptus trees? Specifically Height Control without removal and if pollarding works with the Blue Gum Eucalytus that we seem to have.

    Webmaster: We recommend that you hire a certified arborist, preferably one without a nativist bias if you don’t want to destroy your eucalypts. There are two such arborists that have posted comments on this website: Mark Bowman lives in the East Bay and is in the phone book and Alma Hecht lives in San Francisco (Second Nature in the phone book).

    We have been told by arborists whom we trust that topping any tree is both dangerous (because the tree grows lateral branches that are not adequately supported by the trunk) and misshapes the tree in the long run.

    We have no information about pollarding, however.

    If improving views is your objective, we have seen successful view “windows” created by knowledgeable arborists.

    Good luck. If you are trying to save your trees, we applaud you.

  2. March 4, 2012 10:32 am

    Thank you so much for this information. I didn’t used to like eucalyptus because of hearing the propaganda about them. As I’ve been learning about native raptors and other animals, I’ve been amazed at what a difference a few eucalyptus make in providing homes and food. They are so beautiful as well. And alive. They feel. We should be honored to have them with us instead of butchering them.

    Anyway, here is my letter to the Tribune in their defense:

    Dear Tribune editor,

    Thank you for publicizing the killing of the eucalyptus at the Mountain View Cemetery so we can know and respond.

    While we are needing every tree to help stave off environmental destruction, I can’t believe that any large, beautiful trees are being killed. It’s a complete myth about eucalyptus being a fire hazard. These enormous old trees precipitate many inches of moisture from the fog each year, watering nearby plants and the earth. I have heard people testify that the Oakland firestorm came right to their houses, but their eucalyptus stopped it and protecting them.

    Besides being beautiful, these trees provide homes and food for so many native animals. I’ve seen myself that they are the preferred nesting site for Great Horned Owls and Red-Shouldered Hawks and so many other animals. At the cemetery, they also provide a peaceful atmosphere, which must be a comfort for those grieving. It’s a travesty to kill such living beings.

    Most people have no idea that the majority of the beautiful trees in our parks and lands that people use and visit are non-native. The demand to kill them all would leave us with desert-like wasteland conditions, as well as terrible erosion. The very people and agencies who insist non-natives be killed, landscape their own public and private properties with non-natives — almost every tree and other plants in people’s yards, parking strips and medians, city parks, city, county, state, and federal agencies are non-natives. Why not cut all of those down before a single native wild animal is deprived of food and home? Better yet, before one more tree is removed, why not start with non-native humans?

    Bev Jo

  3. March 4, 2012 9:39 pm

    The concerted campaign against eucalyptus launched by the Native Plant movement is based on a lot of myths – that it doesn’t provide habitat and that it’s more flammable than native plants. For more on these myths (and why they’re untrue) check out http://sutroforest.com/eucalyptus-myths/

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