Eucalyptus Eucalyptus

While far from it native home in Australia many species of Eucalyptus were imported and have naturalized along the central coast of California. Perhaps the most common import to California is Eucalyptus globulus (Blue Gum) which was planted for potential lumber, windbreaks, and before the known vector for malaria — mosquito control.

This evergreen member of the Mytle Family has leaves covered with oil grands giving off a recongizable smell. There are 700 species in the genus of Eucalyptus ranging from quite small to among the largest of tree species. They are a common tree to see along Highway One of the Big Sur as well as throughout the central coast of California.

eucalyptus foliage and bark
Eucalyptus leaves and bark.

eucalyptus forest
A mature Eucalyptus forest can be seen in the background surrounded by native Oak woodlands and coastal scrub.

eucalyptus foliage, mature leaves
Leaves vary greatly from juvenile to adult. Above are typical leaves of a mature tree that, in this case, is about 180 feet tall.

young Eucalyptus foliage
Sprouts of young leaves of the same species are softer in the hand, lighter in color, and different in shape.

eucalyptus bark
The bark can vary depending on species, age, and where it occurs along the trunk and branches. The bark of a mature tree is often stringy and peels off in long sections.

eucalyptus foliage and woody friut capsules
Eucalyptus fruit and foliage. The woody fruit capsules contain can contain 3- 6 seeds.

eucalyptus woody fruit capsules
The distinctive fruit capsules sometime called "gumnuts" can cover the ground under a mature tree.

The Challenge of Eucalyptus
Very few native plants and animals can live in the Eucalyptus forest, they encroach on native plant & animal habitat, and they are a fire hazard in many locations. In the dry season the limbs become brittle and break off in high winds. While they are considered a invasive non-native by most, they ironically supply both nectar and habitat to native migrating and over-wintering Monacrh butterflies along the coast. This has presented a challenging conflict of interests for those involved in how best to "manage" healthy ecosystems.

eucalyptus understory
The understory of a Eucalyptus forest in California is often devoid of any native and non-native flora and fauna. In it's home in Australia the same forest would have multiple tree species and host an abundance of plant and animal species.

eucalyptus near Big Sur river
This historic Eucalyptus forest has steadily encroached on native habitat along the riparian coridor of the Big Sur River. As Eucalyptus forest encroach on native habitats, native plant and animal diversity decreases. This same stand often supports over-wintering Monarch butterflies.

For an article on Monarch butterflies: Magical Monarchs

Back to Trees of Big Sur and the Santa Lucia Mountains