I loved the trees and was sad when we moved away from them. Dad had purchased five acres on the top of Fayette Place and built a lovely Cape Cod-style home on a rather desolate piece of scrub-covered land. In hopes of a quick fix, Dad began his own Johnny Appleseed campaign, planting countless eucalyptus on the tall slope below the house. He chose the tree primarily because, with sufficient water, it has a rapid growth curve.
It was a move he would later regret when the trees smothered the lovely panoramic ocean view that the house had once commanded. Legions of chainsaw carting gardeners saw to the demise of more than two-thirds of what he had planted. Trees gone — view restored.
Eucalyptus trees have deep roots in California’s history.
The first successful planting was likely in San Francisco. W.C. Walker obtained seeds of several species in 1853. By the 1870s, the tree was planted on thousands of acres. One California newspaper suggested that “For a person who has some capital and is willing to wait for returns, there is a pretty chance to make a fortune in the growing of gum trees.”
Even shipbuilders liked their chops, but the California blue gum split and curled, unlike the old-growth trees used by the Australians.
The tree was touted for its qualities of shade, as fuel, construction wood, and its medicinal value. Eucalyptus oil, extracted from the leaves, was said to be an anti-spasmodic, an expectorant, stimulant, deodorant and antiseptic. At one point, the healing claims of the tree extended to malaria, insomnia, fevers, bladder infections, dysentery, diphtheria, tuberculosis and venereal disease.