In a nutshell, yes. His most recent article for Bay Nature was on the Resilient by Design contest and the future of the Bay’s shoreline. We turn a corner and stop between a feller buncher (which both fells trees and gathers them into bunches) and a chipper. This article reviews 7 impressive benefits of eucalyptus leaves. Bay Nature’s email newsletter delivers local nature stories, hikes, and events to your inbox each week. (It’s also why, even in the hottest fire, it’s almost always a tree’s branches and leaves burning, not its trunk.) It may need assistance from another faster burning wood such as Birch to keep it burning well. “This one I made a promise to, that I was not going to let any harm come to it. 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. Eucalyptus is a popular evergreen tree that’s widely used for its medicinal properties. Now the flames on the ground are 30 feet high and even higher off the boughs, roaring like a jet engine. So do all the experts I spoke with, including the ones with no prior knowledge of the FEMA grant. The ground is muddy. When a tree dies, dozens of new ones appear. If there is a single factor that makes the blue gums a fire hazard, it is this. 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. It’s clear that fire benefits the trees. Berkeley, CA 94710 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. But the thing that’s most concerning is the volume of material it can produce.” 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. “This in here is a disaster waiting to happen,” he concludes. In the middle of June, I attended a protest outside the Sierra Club’s national headquarters in downtown Oakland. Eucalyptus Firewood. Eucalyptus conjures images of Australia, whose old-growth forests primarily consist of this large, strong tree. Grade: 2-3: Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus: Allow to season well since the wood is very wet (sappy) when fresh. The air begins to smell of fresh sawdust. The eucalyptus tree, native to Australia, and now common in other parts of the world, is an exotic-looking and aromatic tree. However, the aroma of burning eucalyptus has also been described as "medicinal," which can alter the flavor of baked goods and other foods. It might indeed get away, or catch houses on fire. 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. Like the other Australians I spoke with, Sullivan called the Bay Area blue gums “supersized,” treated to better soils than those in nutrient-poor Australia and untrimmed by their native pests. 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. I’m with Brad Gallup, a fire captain with the East Bay Regional Park District. The ability to retain the trunk gives the eucalyptus species a jump start on regrowing from the ashes. “They’re absolutely dangerous plants,” he says. A traditional aboriginal remedy, eucalyptus is a powerful antiseptic used all over the world for relieving coughs and colds, sore throats and other infections. Most varieties are native to Australia. 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. 4 years ago. But not today. List of the Pros of Eucalyptus Furniture. The blue gum variety were introduced around the 1850s as ornamental plants and as timber and fuel. Perhaps as important, Kent says, this side is cheaper. But it is plenty complicated on its own. Eucalyptus Oil and Fire. 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. Eucalyptus Oil. It kills germs and stops infections from forming. Like Maloney, he says he got involved after researching the FEMA plan and coming to the conclusion that removing trees would make the area more fire prone, not less. 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. 1. 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. The workers who cut the trees then didn’t treat the stumps with herbicide, and now they’re regrown, more trunks and closer together. By contrast, the trees would only need to be cleared and the stumps treated with herbicide once, he says. Sign up for our newsletter. But there is no peer-reviewed version of my informal test. “But the thing that’s most concerning is the volume of material it can produce.”. Eucalyptus wood is resistant to rot and decay. -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. Of those 2,000 acres, roughly 800 are dominated by blue gum—representing perhaps a quarter of the East Bay’s eucalyptus. Along with the sweet medicine smell of the trees, there is the warm scent of sawdust and a sour hint of exhaust. The goal, Gallup says, is to get to less than 100 trees per acre, down from as many as 1,700 per acre in some areas. Bay Nature connects the people of the San Francisco Bay Area to our natural  world and motivates people to solve problems with nature in mind. It’s the same reason that crumpled newspaper will ignite more easily than a log—a fire requires oxygen, heat, and fuel, and grass and balled-up paper are airier and easier to heat to the point of ignition. Grass and brush will catch fire more easily than a tree, Maloney says. We target brush.” Share your love of Bay Area nature with a Bay Nature gift subscription and save over 30%! He has also independently researched the costs of eucalyptus removal and management. 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. 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. You get away from stress, smell the smells, see the birds. 0 0. Some wood fires reach heats as high as 1600 degrees Fahrenheit. Essential Oil Burn Salve Recipe. 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. Often known more for the oil extracts than the wood itself, when burned, eucalyptus takes advantage of these natural oils to achieve a high burn temperature. “Every piece of vegetation is flammable. We drive next to Signpost 29, for another view of the possible future. Source(s): The oil leaves a smoggy miasma hanging over the eucalyptus groves. Variables that determine the temperature of a wood fire include the wood species and the water content of the wood before … 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. Others were concerned that the FEMA plan was cover for native species restoration advocates. “This is my favorite tree,” Grassetti says, giving it a slap on the trunk. “I love eucalyptus,” Bowman says. The high oil content of eucalyptus leaves also means that they burn hotter than less oily leaves. General Information: Eucalyptus is native from Australia, where it comprises more than 75% of all trees. Others who live in a region where eucalyptus is prevalent have used the firewood for years, have not had any issues and love it. Finally, Maloney says, cutting the trees would make the hills drier, both by increasing the amount of sun hitting the ground and because the trees collect condensation on their leaves. Eucalyptus. Maloney is a retired firefighter. Prepared by Andrew Lyne, ANBG staff, 2003 There are some 800 species of Eucalyptus. This gas is extremely flammable and the cause of many wild fires. Because its components are easier to ignite, a grass fire can also spread much faster than a fire in trees. We’re deep in Tilden Regional Park, standing on a fire road between a feller buncher and a chipper. The tree sheds bark and dead leaves, which make a perfect pile of tinder under the tree too. There are some native eucalyptus but the majority have been introduced. 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 long history of widespread eucalyptus planting has resulted in several species becoming controversial during the 1980s. “Within a very short time, you have a self-sustaining, low-cost native forest.”. When the wind stirs the boughs, drops of last night’s fog rain down on us. 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. Native species and grasses produce sparks and firebrands too, Stephens says, but not of the same quantity and quality as eucalyptus. 1328 6th St., #2 Native plant advocates also argue that the trees are inhospitable to many native animals and generally reduce biodiversity in areas they dominate. Still, both documents say there is a fire hazard. 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. 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. 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. Euc-defenders point out that the leaves of native California bay laurel trees also have a high oil content. “Save the eucs because they’re great!”. From unclear comparisons of leaf chemistry, we are led down progressively less rewarding or elucidating scientific rabbit holes. In the early 2000s, UC Berkeley and the nonprofit Claremont Canyon Conservancy cleared 70-odd acres on the south side of Claremont Avenue. And he imagines it catching fire. It’s not personal. Eucalyptus grow right across the Australian continent, from the arid to the cold sub-alpine regions. But some of it burns better. 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. Leaving the eucalyptus as-is endangers thousands of homes and people and isn’t a viable option, he says. Eucalyptus oil and fire are a match made in heaven from the fire’s perspective but a nightmare for those of us in its path. Eucalyptus oil helps to reduce pain and inflammation associated with many conditions. That’s why the eucalyptus is called the tree of fire: it saves its seeds in woody pouches, releasing them in high temperatures. Nowadays, the increasing oil consumption throughout the world induces crucial economical, security, and environmental problems. Thickets of eucalyptus spring up on either side, their leaves and bell-shaped nuts cluttering the roadside. “Blue gum eucalyptus is one of the most fire-intensive plants,” says Klatt. “The forests are beautiful. Second, Maloney says removing the eucalyptus would also remove windbreaks.. 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’re trying to change fire behavior,” he says, “to make it easier to put the fire out, to give people more time to evacuate.”. “For most eucalypts, fire was not a destroyer but a liberator,” writes fire ecologist Stephen Pyne in his book Burning Bush. Gallup is characteristically diplomatic. -Scott Stephens, UC Berkeley fire ecologist. Now it is regrown with native willows, bays, oaks—the species that advocates of the FEMA plan insist will, with some human help, replace the eucalypts—as well as redwoods, nonnative thistle, fennel, and broom. Editor’s note: In late September, FEMA rescinded its fire mitigation grants to UC Berkeley and the City of Oakland, covering the 350 most contentious acres. The eucalyptus oil does a great job in treating fever and reduce body temperature. We stop at a turnout and hike up a path through tall grass that opens into a field. Steep for 10 minutes and drink. 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. 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. Trees near the ridgeline can collect inches of fog-drip a year, sometimes even rivaling the amount they might collect from rainfall. From the gully below comes the whine of the saw; then it stops and a young eucalyptus topples over with a drawn-out crash. “Anybody who wants to encourage really flammable plants in an urban mix has to do it with their eyes open,” David Bowman told me. “Two, four, six, eight,” they shouted. some of these aspects are Temperature at and above which a liquid gives off enough flammable vapor to form a mixture with air that can be ignited by contact with a hot surface, spark, or flame. Eucalyptus is a shrubby, flowering plant with a fresh and herbaceous fragrance. 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. His writing about science and the environment has been published by Outside, Scientific American, The Atlantic, and many others. The Properties of Eucalyptus Wood. Sign up to get all the latest gardening tips! Anonymous. The ground below this tree is littered with its rooster-tail leaves and cinnamon-stick tubes of bark. 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. “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. Both the FEMA impact statement and Wolf and DiTomaso’s study list the source of the ignitability rating as a 2009 wildfire hazard reduction and vegetation management report by California-based environmental consultants LSA Associates, prepared for the East Bay Regional Park District. BIRDS AND THE BEES Some years ago, I was told that eucalyptus trees could spontaneously combust. Ignitability—how easily something catches fire—is a combined result of its architecture, chemistry, moisture content, and caloric values. It’s his job to make sure that if and when this forest burns, it doesn’t take half of Berkeley with it. This “shaded fuel-break,” as he calls it, should help slow down fires. Eucalyptus fire hazards are also cited in efforts to remove the trees. Tasmanian blue gums, Eucalyptus globulus, don’t like cold. This is one of the areas owned by UC Berkeley, where all of the eucalypts would be removed. So did you really get a net fuel reduction? (510) 528-8550, Subscription Customer Service: Find more gardening information on Gardening Know How: Keep up to date with all that's happening in and around the garden. 5 years ago. A strong wind carries them throughout the surrounding area. It did not offer an explanation. 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. I asked her why the consortium gave blue gum a high ignitability rating as well as a high hazard rating—what studies was that based on? dont burn pine. Eucalyptus trees are widespread in California and have been introduced to many other warm states. These hardy plants have delightfully scented, volatile oil in all parts of the plant. We walk uphill along Claremont Avenue, then hike up into the eucalyptus grove. 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. This is another of blue gums’ talents—its bark makes ideal braziers. The plant is already head and shoulders above the native species when fire recovery begins. What do you think?’”, “Eucalyptus is flammable. They are also found in Australia, of which many are native. Like the other Australian fire ecologists and eucalyptus experts I spoke with, though, Bowman called the genus in general, and blue gum in particular, extremely flammable. On the other side of the debate, the Bay Area’s many native plant advocates have their own long list of complaints, also mostly separate from the debate about the trees’ flammability. Lots of people are familiar with Eucalyptus as an ingredient in cold remedies like Vicks VapoRub. 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. Native plants, on the other hand, having evolved here over millennia, are better adapted to local conditions, they say. It’s not just eucalyptus we target. It naturally resists the influence of moisture because of the high oil content it naturally contains. 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. The wildfires that are now threatening Sydney and other parts of New South Wales, Australia, are finding fuel in Australia's eucalyptus forests, … But then they catch on fire.” The trunk can sprout new limbs and regenerate the plant unlike other types of trees, which have to re-sprout from the roots. The roughly two dozen Australian and American wildfire experts, eucalyptus experts, and fire ecologists I communicated with while reporting this story (the majority of them with no personal connection to the local debate) were unanimous in their verdict: Blue gum eucalyptus is especially, dangerously flammable. Gallup, who has gray hair and thin-frame glasses, is dressed head-to-toe in navy and wears black leather fire boots. now aged 71[tomorrow in fact] 4 0. dietzen. White Oak is a great firewood for holding a fire overnight. Though the fire started in grass, the trees were blamed for the severity of the disaster, by some estimates contributing almost three-quarters of the fire’s energy. It was immediately clear that the debate over the blue gum’s flammability is only one of several parallel conversations around the tree; while that is the Hills Conservation Network’s primary focus, it was not necessarily what most interested the individual protesters or their opponents. Their concerns echoed some of those of the 13,000 people who wrote comments on the first draft of an environmental impact statement FEMA prepared ahead of the grant. If you cut down these trees and eliminate this source of fuel, well, what’s going to happen? The shower of firebrands tossed from the ridgeline by the 100-foot-tall trees foils any attempt to create a firebreak. GREAT burning firewood but it must be air dried before burning. “Nature’s going to put that out.” We’re on a ridgeline above UC Berkeley, across the street from the grove in question. (For context, a single kitchen match is worth about one BTU.). But even under the worst conditions, there is the possibility of containing a grass fire, he says. “Yes, there is some fuel here,” Grassetti says, then gestures to the head-high brush that surrounds us. A strong wind begins blowing over the hills from the east. 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. Fire often even seems to have a rejuvenating effect on the trees. 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. We target grass. it clogs everything. At his urging, I did the same. Several of the people I spoke with were worried about the use of herbicide as a way to keep the eucalyptus from resprouting. They call the eucs bad neighbors. The natural detritus under the tree is resistant to microbial or fungal break down due to the oils. 888-422-9628 On hot days in Tasmania and blue gum’s other native regions, eucalyptus oil vaporizes in the heat. It looks scrubby and multitextured compared to the stand of blue gum across the road. Lower the flash point, greater the fire hazard. 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After a fire, many eucalypt species will sprout epicormic shoots along their entire trunks. But the frost didn’t really kill the trees, only made them retreat back down into their roots. 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. Relative humidity is in the low teens, and any moisture hidden in the debris below the trees has long wicked away. “Those areas are really hard to restore,” says Lech Naumovich, a local restoration ecologist and consultant who has worked extensively in Claremont Canyon. The trees that remain standing are big and widely spaced. Header illustrations by Jane Kim, InkDwell, Bay Nature Institute In California, the trees have spread so prolifically that there are entire woodlands almost completely made up of gum trees. Although the view didn’t change, I saw something different each time through the eyes of the person I was with. [email protected] “I love trees,” he says. In the middle of the field is a pile of eucalyptus logs, surrounded by waist-deep thistles and grass. The original question—whether blue gums are uniquely, dangerously flammable—often serves as proxy to these other debates. Like dry grass, blue gum leaves have a high surface-area-to-volume ratio and tend to build up in well-aerated piles. “That’s a great way to get the tree to burn,” he says. And then somehow—maybe a spark from a car, maybe a tossed cigarette—the whole dry, airy mess catches fire. He used to be a fire chief and knows how dangerous burning eucalyptus plantations can be. It’s late September, in a eucalyptus grove on the ridgeline above the UC Berkeley campus. 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. 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. Gallup considers the gum, buried in a pyre of its own debris. It's nice to mix it with less dense firewoods such as Cherry or Elm when wanting good quick daytime heat. But then they catch on fire.”, “The forests are beautiful. Removal of the trees has been recommended largely due to eucalyptus fire damage but also because they are taking the place of native species. A tech entrepreneur, Grassetti lives in the hills near Claremont Canyon. It is tinder dry and contains the flammable oil. Some 600 members of genus Eucalyptus dominate forests across Australia. Eucalyptus firewood is known for burning very hot. In addition to his sunburn spray described above, Dr. Axe also provides a burn salve recipe for a remedy for burns that may progress past the simple sunburn. You get away from stress, smell the smells, see the birds. This is Gallup’s favorite part of the job, he says—choosing which trees to remove, which trees to keep. But now, standing by Grassetti’s favorite tree, even this most damning of blue gum statistics seems woefully abstract. Today eucalypts are to be found growing in many parts of the world for their timber and horticultural appeal. Rice was a participant at the 1995 meeting. The 20-odd protesters—mostly white, mostly gray-haired—marched in a circle, holding up hand-lettered signs and photographs of butterflies and trees. From the brush down at the bottom of the gully, there is the whine of a chain saw. The state’s first planting of eucalyptus was made by William G. Walker at his Golden Gate Nursery at Fourth and Folsom Streets, San … “Eucalyptus is flammable,” says Scott Stephens, a UC Berkeley fire ecologist. have been in this house for 25 years.we clean the chimney every couple of years. 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. Tucked away inside a rolled-up strip of bark, a fire might live for close to an hour and fly 20 miles. 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. While the forest service report describes the blue gums as “highly flammable,” both documents advise against removing all of the trees in any area, for exactly the reasons that Maloney cites. Eucalyptus has a fresh, distinctive scent that many enjoy in an open fire. LSA Associates’ source, in turn, is a 1995 report by Amphion Inc. on the proceedings of a meeting by the Vegetation Management Consortium (which later became the Hills Emergency Forum), a group of local fire management stakeholders and experts. Grass also earns a 1, while oak/bay woodland earns a 6 and scrub vegetation earns a 4 to 8. Eucalyptus trees are common in California and the warmer states of the United States. 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. “If the plan says ‘thin eucalyptus,’ then that’s what I have to do,” he says. 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. This is because the eucalyptus has displaced natives and it changes soil composition where it grows, altering other life forms as it does so. One bolt of lightning or a careless cigarette and the forest can easily become an inferno. 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. Jack Gescheidt, a fervent euc-defender and photographer who makes pictures of nudes posing with trees, told me that he conducted an informal test, lighting both wet and dry leaves from blue gum and bay laurel trees over his stovetop.