ISSUE 22  |  Australia and Beyond

Kidnapped: The True Story of Eucalyptus

May 31, 2012 8:00 PM

BY Michelle Slatalla

“Invasive” is such a harsh word. Can’t we try for once to see things from the eucalyptus tree’s perspective?

Picture the red bloodwood gum tree, minding its own business–along with about 700 other species of eucalyptus in Australia–when 18th century European explorers showed up, fell in love with its exotic bark and glossy leaves, and sailed home with it. The Victorians, in their zealous frenzy to collect exotic plants, took it from there. Eucalyptus thrives in the dry, drought-ridden climate of Australia, accounting for about 80 percent of trees in open forests. Being a water hog (sorry, eucalyptus), it also does fine in other parts of the world; this explains how the trees, with their distinctive peeling bark and soaring height, have come to dominate much of California’s landscape, crowding out other native plants. Through no fault of their own, they would like to point out.


Above: A flowering gum tree. Image by Mundoo, via Flickr.


Above: Happy to be home. Eucalyptus trees at Australian National University, in Canberra. Image via Deurmylens.


Above: A eucalyptus tree shades the patio outside a train station coffee shop in Tel Aviv. Image by David Henderson.