Scientists speculate that flammable eucalyptus trees evolved to be “fire friendly.” Rapidly catching fire until there is no obvious tinder allows the plant to retain most of its trunk when fire moves on to find more to burn. But there is no peer-reviewed version of my informal test. Here, the debate about the flammability or fire danger of an entire forest is reduced to its smallest, most arcane variables, starting with leaf chemistry. The picture this paints is of California and other areas experiencing serious eucalyptus fire damage. Bowman says the burn-your-neighbors theory, inspired by a 1970 paper by American forester Robert W. Mutch, suggests intent: By this reading, the eucalypts’ oil-rich leaves evolved to ignite easily; their peeling bark evolved to be carried aloft by the wind off a fire, spreading the blaze; they evolved to resprout quickly after a fire from both seed and shoot not just because they evolved in a landscape that burns frequently, but because, in some flori-sadomasochistic way, they want to be burnt. The eucalyptus trees easy recovery added with its volatile oily gasses, make it a potentially threatening species for California woodlands and similar areas known to house these trees. We walk back down the hill, sliding in the mud. This article reviews 7 impressive benefits of eucalyptus leaves. Tasmanian blue gums, Eucalyptus globulus, don’t like cold. In the middle of June, I attended a protest outside the Sierra Club’s national headquarters in downtown Oakland. Every story from Bay Nature magazine is the product of a team of people dedicated to connecting our readers to the world around them and increasing environmental literacy. The forest between us and him is already mostly thinned. In the middle of the field is a pile of eucalyptus logs, surrounded by waist-deep thistles and grass. After an extensive search, I came up with four studies that concluded blue gum leaves have a heating value of about 10,000 BTU per pound, which is a little less than coal and about 1,500 BTU more than your average plant material. A strong wind begins blowing over the hills from the east. The ground below this tree is littered with its rooster-tail leaves and cinnamon-stick tubes of bark. 1. This is because the eucalyptus has displaced natives and it changes soil composition where it grows, altering other life forms as it does so. They point me repeatedly to both the 1992 Oakland mayor’s task force report and a 2013 report by the U.S. Forest Service’s Adaptive Management Services Enterprise Team. Grass and brush will catch fire more easily than a tree, Maloney says. 0 0. Perhaps as important, Kent says, this side is cheaper. Eucalyptus oil has some healing properties, but its greatest benefit for first or second-degree burns is its cooling ability. The grove is one of those that were logged off after the 1972 freeze, and the trees grew back just a few feet apart, hung with bark and knee-deep in fallen leaves, bark, and twigs. This page lists some of those species suitable for growing in the colder regions of t… He is among the pro-eucalyptus faction’s star fire authorities, although his expertise, he admits, is not in wildland fire. Source(s): This is a cooling oil that can help you to feel a little cooler and which can be very pleasant for someone suffering with a fever. Ignitability—how easily something catches fire—is a combined result of its architecture, chemistry, moisture content, and caloric values. 2. Gallup is characteristically diplomatic. There’s no exact number.” When he starts a thinning project, he walks the grove and imagines how it might look without this or that tree, how the canopy would look, how it would look in a decade, in three decades. The Sierra Club suit argues that the plan should remove more nonnative trees, that leaving eucalyptus and Monterey pine standing would mean prohibitively expensive maintenance, and that removing the trees would allow native species to flourish. We walk uphill along Claremont Avenue, then hike up into the eucalyptus grove. More bark peels from the trunks and spills out from piles built up in the valleys between them. I’m going to live up to that promise.” The ground around the tree is littered with its bark and leaves, inches deep in places. But again, this is not necessarily more than native species—for example, coyote brush, an early-succession bush that could replace eucs in unshaded areas, has a heating value of about 8–10,000 BTU per pound, depending on the time of year. it clogs everything. “If the plan says ‘thin eucalyptus,’ then that’s what I have to do,” he says. Today eucalypts are to be found growing in many parts of the world for their timber and horticultural appeal. Sign up for our newsletter. It’s not personal. And then from somewhere down in the woods there is the sound of a saw. The oil leaves a smoggy miasma hanging over the eucalyptus groves. Leaving the eucalyptus as-is endangers thousands of homes and people and isn’t a viable option, he says. “But the thing that’s most concerning is the volume of material it can produce.”. Ross Bradstock, a wildfire expert at the University of Wollongong, says that while being able to empirically compare the flammability of different trees would be useful, it’s not currently possible. Native plant advocates also argue that the trees are inhospitable to many native animals and generally reduce biodiversity in areas they dominate. Several of the people I spoke with were worried about the use of herbicide as a way to keep the eucalyptus from resprouting. What do you think?’”, “Eucalyptus is flammable. The leaves are also said to help a weak person Cast Off Evil; that is, to ensure a final break with wicked companions or to put a stop to personal weakness such as a drug, alcohol, or tobacco habit. Native plants, on the other hand, having evolved here over millennia, are better adapted to local conditions, they say. 888-422-9628 Trees near the ridgeline can collect inches of fog-drip a year, sometimes even rivaling the amount they might collect from rainfall. These beautiful stately trees are filled with aromatic oil, which makes them highly combustible. Still, both documents say there is a fire hazard. Eucalyptus oil helps to reduce pain and inflammation associated with many conditions. Eucalyptus leaves are widely believed to effectively Ward Off Evil and Repel Enemies who are troubling your home or job. It would preserve a virtual monoculture and would require continual management that he believes could cost the East Bay Regional Park District alone hundreds of millions of dollars over the lifetime of the trees—and that’s if there are no fires to help the eucs regenerate. “But there’s a lot of fuel there, too. The East Bay Regional Park District is taking something of a middle approach to fire prevention in the eucalyptus groves it manages, thinning the trees rather than clearing them outright. Tucked away inside a rolled-up strip of bark, a fire might live for close to an hour and fly 20 miles. We target brush.” Larger pieces of wood will prove difficult to split. “I love eucalyptus,” Bowman says. Though it was sunny and beginning to get warm on the downhill side of the road, here it is cool. We stop at a turnout and hike up a path through tall grass that opens into a field. A UC press release stated that the fire hazard mitigation work in Strawberry and Claremont canyons “will be delayed for an indefinite period.”, Zach St. George, a freelance reporter in Baltimore, is the author of The Journeys of Trees: A Story About Forests, People, and the Future. At the same time, anyone who’s fought a fire in eucalyptus understands why they need to be thinned, he says—all vegetation will burn, that’s true. Eucalyptus firewood is known for burning very hot. Although blue gums tend not to invade new territory, they are salt-the-earth occupiers: Along with shading out other species, their leaf litter leaches chemicals that suppress growth of native plants, even after the trees are removed. It has been estimated that other than the 3,000+ homes that burned in the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire in California, about 70 percent of the energy released was through the combustion of eucalyptus. “It’s an amazing just-so story,” he says of the possibility: “Eucalypts evolved to burn their neighbors.”. It’s still messy, a sculpture only half done. Others were concerned that the FEMA plan was cover for native species restoration advocates. One of the best reasons to choose Eucalyptus wood for your outdoor furniture or four-seasons porch is that it is exceptionally resistant to decay and rot. By his reading, everything good about the eucalyptus across the street is matched or exceeded by the native species on this side: The native species are less flammable, use less water, collect fog, block wind, and provide more valuable habitat. I would argue that at best—at best—you broke even.” With inexpert eyes, I look at the brush and trees and debris, and try to imagine how it all might burn. The plants are considered dangerous in fire prone areas because of their habit of shooting sparks if they catch fire. (For context, a single kitchen match is worth about one BTU.). The Properties of Eucalyptus Wood. Vaporization Temperature: 266°F/130°C Properties: Antiseptic, expectorant, stimulates local blood flow, anti-fungal. According to both the FEMA environmental impact statement and a 2016 study of blue gums in California by ecologist Kristina M. Wolf and biologist Joseph M. DiTomaso, blue gum has an ignition rating of 1 out of 10, with one being the most easily ignited. Eucalyptus has a fresh, distinctive scent that many enjoy in an open fire. Furthermore, the majority of the blue gum litter is small sticks, bark, and leaves, collectively known as “fine fuels.” These fine fuels are the source of a forest fire’s power, Sullivan says, easily ignited and quickly consumed. The high oil content of eucalyptus leaves also means that they burn hotter than less oily leaves. 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On hot days in Tasmania and blue gum’s other native regions, eucalyptus oil vaporizes in the heat. “We’re in our infancy in understanding how flammability can be practically measured and scaled up,” he says. “Every piece of vegetation is flammable,” he says. We pass through the tunnel and drive into the hills. -Brad Gallup. “Yes, there is some fuel here,” Grassetti says, then gestures to the head-high brush that surrounds us. “That’s a great way to get the tree to burn,” he says. About a month after my visit to Signpost 29 with Dave Maloney, I return with Dan Grassetti, founder and director of the Hills Conservation Network, the nonprofit that’s filing suit against FEMA. Gallup, who has gray hair and thin-frame glasses, is dressed head-to-toe in navy and wears black leather fire boots. Variables that determine the temperature of a wood fire include the wood species and the water content of the wood before … Many of the hills on the east side of the Caldecott Tunnel are covered in grass, speckled with drooping oak, much as the landscape above Berkeley and Oakland would’ve looked before Oakland developer Frank Colton Havens planted them with eucalyptus. Berkeley, CA 94710 Yet Rice, who helped plan UC Berkeley’s portion of the FEMA application, says that factor is mitigated by the higher moisture content of bay laurel leaves. Still others argued that removing any trees would be irresponsible in an age of climate change, and that native trees would not be able to take up the slack. When a tree dies, dozens of new ones appear. A former assistant general manager for the East Bay Regional Park District, Kent is now on the board of directors at the Claremont Canyon Conservancy, which worked with UC Berkeley to convert the downhill side of the road to native vegetation. But then they catch on fire.” Leaves or other components, meanwhile, can tell you only so much about the whole, and individual trees only so much about the forest. Many species of eucalyptus both tolerate fire, hiding from the flames behind thick bark, and depend on it to open their seed pods. There are some native eucalyptus but the majority have been introduced. It did not offer an explanation. “Save the eucs because they’re great!”. Lv 4. Sign up today: Letter to the Editor: Protecting Diversity Is the Opposite of Xenophobia, Letter from the Publisher: Rethinking Eucalyptus, How the Australian Eucalyptus Came to the East Bay Hills. In front of us on the uphill side of the road is what looks like a group of seven trees but is really a single tree with multiple boles. In many parts of the state, people planted eucalyptus for that express purpose; the wind inside a forest might have less than half the wind speed it would in the open. “Eucalyptus is flammable,” says Scott Stephens, a UC Berkeley fire ecologist. Eucalyptus is a shrubby, flowering plant with a fresh and herbaceous fragrance. A tech entrepreneur, Grassetti lives in the hills near Claremont Canyon. We drive next to Signpost 29, for another view of the possible future. We drive along the ridgeline and re-enter the park, and into what looks and feels like a vast eucalyptus forest. A traditional aboriginal remedy, eucalyptus is a powerful antiseptic used all over the world for relieving coughs and colds, sore throats and other infections. There, the debate isn’t over whether the trees are flammable, says David Bowman, a fire ecologist at the University of Tasmania, but about whether the trees have simply evolved to survive fire, or whether they actually promote fire as a way to snuff out competitors. To the Sioux of The Dakotas and the Cree, the first new moon of the new year is known, in various dialects, as the "Moon of the Cold-Exploding Trees".. Tree sap is a supercooled liquid in cold temperatures. The gums are mottled tan and brown like chicken bones, crowded together, the spaces between them choked with brush and hung with streamers of bark. How Hot and Cold Temperatures Affect Essential Oils If a pure essential oil is temporarily exposed to heat like if you forgot it in a hot car that reached upwards of 140 degrees, the oil would still be good as new as long as it stayed sealed until cool. The wet leaves didn’t burn, but the dry leaves of both species flared impressively and smoked up my apartment. In the event that a fire does destroy the aboveground parts of the tree, it can send up new shoots from lignotubers, nutrient-filled organs hidden among its roots. This “shaded fuel-break,” as he calls it, should help slow down fires. The state’s first planting of eucalyptus was made by William G. Walker at his Golden Gate Nursery at Fourth and Folsom Streets, San … “I love trees,” he says. The eucalyptus oil does a great job in treating fever and reduce body temperature. In California, the trees have spread so prolifically that there are entire woodlands almost completely made up of gum trees. Bark still hangs from trunks, awaiting the youth crews. -David Bowman, University of Tasmania fire ecologist, In the Bay Area, though, it’s not enough to just say the blue gums are flammable, Dave Maloney points out as we drive from Walnut Creek toward Berkeley. Omeo gum (Eucalyptus neglecta), which grows in USDA zones 7 through 11 from 40 to 60 feet tall, survives temperatures as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit. The tree sheds bark and dead leaves, which make a perfect pile of tinder under the tree too. Like many of the trees in this forest, it was cut after the hard frost of 1972. Eucalyptus trees are common in California and the warmer states of the United States. Nowadays, the increasing oil consumption throughout the world induces crucial economical, security, and environmental problems. Eucalyptus conjures images of Australia, whose old-growth forests primarily consist of this large, strong tree. we burn mainly eucalyptus. We turn a corner and stop between a feller buncher (which both fells trees and gathers them into bunches) and a chipper. It’s his job to make sure that if and when this forest burns, it doesn’t take half of Berkeley with it. It kills germs and stops infections from forming. Eucalyptus grow right across the Australian continent, from the arid to the cold sub-alpine regions. BIRDS AND THE BEES Some years ago, I was told that eucalyptus trees could spontaneously combust. When the wind stirs the boughs, drops of last night’s fog rain down on us. “Blue gum eucalyptus is one of the most fire-intensive plants,” says Klatt. When the project is finished, he says, only the bigger trees will be left, with a wide gap between the forest floor and its canopy. He was head of fire prevention at the U.S. Army base in Oakland at the time of the 1991 fire and was one of several dozen people on the Forestry and Revegetation subcommittee of the Task Force on Emergency Preparedness and Community Restoration, convened by Mayor Elihu Harris of Oakland in 1992. The oils in the wood along with the ability to create an intense flame has led some wood stove distributers or chimney sweeps to recommend not burning the wood. Anonymous. “The forests are beautiful. As a result, intensive researches are undertaken to find appropriate substitution to fossil fuels. The long history of widespread eucalyptus planting has resulted in several species becoming controversial during the 1980s. As we walk the downhill side of the road, Maloney points out what he sees as potential hazards: dry wood chips, brush that should be cleared out, a thistle-covered hillside, more sun, more wind. One bolt of lightning or a careless cigarette and the forest can easily become an inferno. “Like, you couldn’t come up with a better way to get that tree to burn.” This tree is surrounded by others just like it; this grove just one of the dozens between here and Lake Chabot, millions of blue gums billowing from the ridgeline like sage-green smoke. To find out where that rating came from, I followed a twisted path from document to document, each taking me a little further back in time. As intriguing as the theory is, Bowman thinks it goes too far, failing the Occam’s-razor test: It’s simpler to imagine that eucalyptus evolved with oily leaves because those oils deter insects and koalas; they evolved peeling bark because the falling bark takes parasitic epiphytes with it; and the trees quickly resprout en masse after fire because they’ve evolved to tolerate fire, not to enjoy it. Last year, after a decade of planning and legal hurdles, the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved a $5.7 million fire prevention grant to UC Berkeley, the City of Oakland, and the East Bay Regional Park District—the major land managers in the hills area—to thin and remove trees and brush on 1,000 acres of ridgeline between Wildcat Canyon and Anthony Chabot regional parks; the park district will thin another 1,000 acres. Like dry grass, blue gum leaves have a high surface-area-to-volume ratio and tend to build up in well-aerated piles. In the early 2000s, UC Berkeley and the nonprofit Claremont Canyon Conservancy cleared 70-odd acres on the south side of Claremont Avenue. What is ostensibly a debate about fire science is more than that, though—it is really just the latest episode in a decades-old dispute over the Australian trees’ place in the Bay Area. Its native decomposers are missing too, meaning fallen leaves and bark decay slower than usual; here, eucalyptus groves can accumulate 30 tons of debris or more per acre. “This in here is a disaster waiting to happen,” he concludes. “Those areas are really hard to restore,” says Lech Naumovich, a local restoration ecologist and consultant who has worked extensively in Claremont Canyon. “Nature’s going to put that out.” We’re on a ridgeline above UC Berkeley, across the street from the grove in question. But not today. It wasn’t based on any specific studies, she told me, but was rather an agreement among the experts—as she recalled it, a sort of, “This is what we think. No wonder why the eucalyptus oil is also referred to as the “fever oil.” Eucalyptus Respiratory Healing Recipes. As a result of climate change and rising temperatures, the risk of forest fires grows accordingly. If there is a single factor that makes the blue gums a fire hazard, it is this. Eucalyptus oil is sometimes referred to as ‘fever oil’, so that’s something of a clue as to how useful it is for combating fevers! Not just any fire, but the fire, the fire that all this is about. “For most eucalypts, fire was not a destroyer but a liberator,” writes fire ecologist Stephen Pyne in his book Burning Bush. He used to be a fire chief and knows how dangerous burning eucalyptus plantations can be. Trees not only put a lot of fuel on the ground as they shed bark, leaves and twigs, but in intense fires, volatile compounds in foliage cause explosive burning. After arborists thin the smaller trees, youth crews will clean up debris and hanging bark. The Vicks VapoRub smell of blue gum forests comes from the oils in their foliage, oils that fire ecologist consultant Carol Rice says can be as much as a fifth of a eucalyptus leaf’s dry weight. It might look bad for a while, but with proper management nonnative grasses and brush would be replaced in a decade or two in most areas by native trees, he says. Please help us keep this unique regional magazine thriving, and support the ecosystem we’ve built around it, by subscribing today. That’s the idea in thinning the eucalyptus—not to prevent fire, but merely to create the possibility of keeping it from growing out of control even in those rare instances when conditions are at their worst. Efforts are underway to eradicate the introduced species and return woodlands to the native species. There is no single, knockout paper or study that shows that blue gums are drastically more dangerous fire-hazards than other local species, that’s true, but that’s probably too much to ask anyway. Euc-defenders point out that the leaves of native California bay laurel trees also have a high oil content. The wildfires that are now threatening Sydney and other parts of New South Wales, Australia, are finding fuel in Australia's eucalyptus forests, … He says the FEMA plan ignores both the task force’s findings and good sense—that removing the trees would actually make the hills more liable to burn, as exemplified by this field, once covered in blue gums, now thick with grass and thistles. The heat of the fire forms a convection column, with 60-mile-per-hour winds that rip burning strips of bark from the trees and toss them upward. The majority of these occur naturally in Australia with only a few species extending naturally into parts of Melanesia and the Philippines. The trunk can sprout new limbs and regenerate the plant unlike other types of trees, which have to re-sprout from the roots. Eucalyptus Firewood. His most recent article for Bay Nature was on the Resilient by Design contest and the future of the Bay’s shoreline. Most varieties are native to Australia. Lots of people are familiar with Eucalyptus as an ingredient in cold remedies like Vicks VapoRub. It naturally resists the influence of moisture because of the high oil content it naturally contains. It might indeed get away, or catch houses on fire. But, as with the BTU comparisons, there are few applicable apples-to-apples (or blue-gums-to-bay-laurels) studies of ignitability in the Bay Area. Other Herbal Tea Posts You Might Enjoy Removal of the trees has been recommended largely due to eucalyptus fire damage but also because they are taking the place of native species.