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Kidnapped: The True Story of Eucalyptus

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Kidnapped: The True Story of Eucalyptus

May 31, 2012

“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 kidnapped it, sailing home with their captive. 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.

Eucalyptus spathulata. Photograph by Sydney Oats via Flickr.
Above: Eucalyptus spathulata. Photograph by Sydney Oats via Flickr.
A eucalyptus tree on Maui. Photograph by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr.
Above: A eucalyptus tree on Maui. Photograph by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr.

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