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.”
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.”
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.
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