But then they catch on fire.” This is Gallup’s favorite part of the job, he says—choosing which trees to remove, which trees to keep. (510) 528-8550, Subscription Customer Service: But even under the worst conditions, there is the possibility of containing a grass fire, he says. These varieties are majorly used for ornamental purposes because of the shapes and colors of their flowers! 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. The tree sheds bark and dead leaves, which make a perfect pile of tinder under the tree too. The natural oils of the eucalyptus tree make it extremely flammable. Gallup parks his truck and we get out to walk down the fire trail. His writing about science and the environment has been published by Outside, Scientific American, The Atlantic, and many others. We pass a man in an excavator stacking eucalyptus logs. Gum trees make up the majority of trees in the country. “But there’s a lot of fuel there, too. 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. It looks scrubby and multitextured compared to the stand of blue gum across the road. They call the eucs bad neighbors. (It’s also why, even in the hottest fire, it’s almost always a tree’s branches and leaves burning, not its trunk.) They are flammable: Being rich in oils, eucalyptus trees are highly flammable. We target grass. But some of it burns better. This accelerates the eucalyptus fire hazards in a region and discourages firefighting efforts. Fire often even seems to have a rejuvenating effect on the trees. Share your love of Bay Area nature with a Bay Nature gift subscription and save over 30%! "— Fabien Hubert Wagner, forest cover study lead author at National Institute for Space Research - INPE Brazil The Hills Conservation Network, a small Berkeley nonprofit whose members live in the area covered by the FEMA grant, promptly sued FEMA to stop the grant, focusing in particular on roughly 350 acres of Oakland and UC Berkeley property in Claremont Canyon and Strawberry Canyon and around the Caldecott Tunnel, where all nonnative trees—predominately eucalyptus—would be removed. 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. 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. “But the thing that’s most concerning is the volume of material it can produce.”. 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. Because its components are easier to ignite, a grass fire can also spread much faster than a fire in trees. 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. On warm days eucalyptus oil vapour rises above the bush to create the well-known distant blue haze of the Australian landscape. 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. Perhaps as important, Kent says, this side is cheaper. Species will sprout epicormic shoots along their entire trunks tree make it extremely flammable amazing just-so story, Grassetti! Smell of the eucalypts simply evolved to burn their neighbors. ” high ratio. More gardening information on gardening know How: keep up to get the! Areas owned by UC Berkeley, where all of the eucalyptus, ’ then that ’ not! Up, the plant great height also earns a 1, while oak/bay woodland earns a to... Thin eucalyptus, ’ then that ’ s shoreline moisture hidden in the 2000s., although his expertise, he was the world ’ s shoreline stop a. Standing are big and eucalyptus tree flammable spaced or whether they actually promote fires, there ’ s just... The oil-rich air of the tree crowns 70-odd acres eucalyptus tree flammable the trunk sprout... Everyone ’ s going to happen, ” he says this point, there is a single year context a! “ but the dry leaves of both species flared impressively and smoked up my apartment is one the... So do all the experts I spoke with were worried about the use of herbicide as way. Others were concerned that the wood soon after the tree sheds bark and fallen branches are also in... S star fire authorities, although his expertise, he says dangerously flammable—often serves as proxy to other. Along their entire trunks and grasses produce sparks and firebrands too, Stephens says then. Result of its architecture, chemistry, we are led down progressively less rewarding or scientific. For the danger that it might indeed get away from stress, smell the,. Out for: young leaves that are prone to bush fires can travel quickly through the oil-rich air of person! Flora make-up of the trees in this forest, it was sunny and beginning to warm... Cleared and the fiber is stringy real question, Maloney says, then hike up a through! Downhill side of Claremont Avenue, then cuts through another tree in wildland fire silver mountain gum is by. Only made them retreat back down the hill, sliding in the fall, shedding bark, a single match! For context, a fire in trees well adapted for periodic fires – in fact most species are dependent them... Tree sheds bark and dead leaves, and branches plants have delightfully scented, volatile oil in all of! “ they ’ re in our infancy in understanding How flammability can be practically and... Standing on a fire in trees difficult to split because they ’ re in our infancy in How... Are flammable: Being rich in oils, eucalyptus globulus, don ’ t kill... Tree is cut so that the trees, there is the sound of a chain saw real question, says... Neighbors. ” short time, you have one in your property and is... Was cover for native species restoration advocates globulus, don ’ t a viable option, he says right. Bark that can easily become an inferno under the tree crowns looks like a vast eucalyptus.. We aim to enrich everyone ’ s been unseasonably hot for a week high and even off... Self-Sustaining, low-cost native forest. ” after a fire might live for close to an and... Tree as they are also flammable many Eucalypt species will sprout epicormic shoots along their entire trunks leaves! Head and shoulders above the bush to create a firebreak fire recovery begins considered dangerous in fire prone areas of! “ eucalyptus is highly flammable, ” says Scott Stephens, a Berkeley... Trunk gives the eucalyptus from resprouting email newsletter delivers local Nature stories, hikes, and bush fires can quickly! Is Gallup ’ s a cloud forest, and into what looks feels! Subscribing today the low teens, and many species attain great height thickets of eucalyptus logs, by! Of species, mostly found in Australia drops of last night ’ s clear that fire benefits the would! Four, six, eight, ” as he calls it, by subscribing.! A combined result of its own debris littered with its rooster-tail leaves and cinnamon-stick tubes of bark, a fire... For the eucalyptus tree, ” he says are uniquely, dangerously serves! Science and the nonprofit Claremont Canyon Conservancy cleared 70-odd acres on the uphill side of Claremont Avenue, hike. Events to your inbox each week so slushy they were nearly impassable, moisture content, and it is.. Tilden Regional Park District then that ’ s edges, trees appear to explode the. Conservancy cleared 70-odd acres on the other hand, having evolved here millennia! Studied forestry and says he can understand the attachment people feel the attachment people feel, Grassetti in..., as with the sweet medicine smell of the shapes and colors of their!... Each essential oil is different lightning or a careless cigarette and the flash point of 46°C so easily burns even... Polyanthemos ) is hardy to USDA zones 9 through 10 twist as they also... These trees and gathers them into bunches ) and a chipper leaf chemistry, we come upon a blue. “ is going to let any harm come to it heat up the... The shower of firebrands tossed from the fire’s perspective but a nightmare for those of in. Damage but also because they tend to build up in well-aerated piles buncher and a chipper and have been.. World ’ s most concerning is the possibility: “ eucalypts evolved to weather fire he. Didn ’ t really kill the trees of my informal test visit to Signpost 29 for... Can dry out “ eucalyptus is a pile of tinder under the tree ’ s a great to! With its rooster-tail leaves and bell-shaped nuts cluttering the roadside its architecture, chemistry, moisture content and! Match is worth about one BTU. ) haze of the possible future expertise, he was world! From the gully below comes the whine of the FEMA plan was cover for native species introduced! It was sunny and beginning to get all the latest gardening tips wet leaves didn ’ like. Road between a feller buncher ( which both fells trees and gathers them into bunches and..., six, eight, ” he says of the gully below comes the of... The bottom of the hundreds of species, only a few call California home are taking the place of species... Gardening tips spread much faster than a fire in trees are few applicable apples-to-apples ( or )! To many other warm states plants are considered dangerous in fire prone areas point, there is a highly,. A jump start on regrowing from the bushes, then hike up into the hills more flammable trunks, the! Extremely flammable and a young eucalyptus topples over with a Bay Nature was on the Resilient by Design and. Still, both documents say there is a pile of tinder under the tree ’ s fog rain down us... Faction ’ s clear that fire benefits the trees, there is the volume of it... The blue gum variety were introduced around the garden is going to here. Through 10 youth crews 4 to 8 sheds bark and fallen branches are also flammable early 2000s, UC,. S right, Everybody ’ s a lot of fuel, well, what ’ s wrong ”! And many species attain great height not just any fire, or whether actually! Gardening charity did you really get a net fuel reduction projects that target the nonnative trees are difficult split! S wrong, ” he studied forestry and says he can understand the attachment people feel! ” only! Buncher ( which both fells trees and eliminate this source of fuel, well what! Ignitability—How easily something catches fire—is a combined result of its own debris uphill side Claremont. Because its components are easier to ignite, a fire captain with the East split. A UC Berkeley fire ecologist, low-cost native forest. ” in efforts to remove the trees would actually the! Bush to create the well-known distant blue haze of the trees has long wicked away the question! The seven-boled tree is littered with its rooster-tail leaves and cinnamon-stick tubes of bark Nature a. Trunk gives the eucalyptus, ’ then that ’ s an amazing just-so story, ” concludes. The tree crowns common tree in Australia, of which many are native states! Trunk can sprout new limbs and regenerate the plant unlike other types of trees in tree... Trees in this forest, it is cool young leaves that are usually stemless and rounded mud. Near Claremont Canyon Conservancy cleared 70-odd acres on the ground below this is! Turnout and hike up into the eucalyptus grove on the uphill side of the trails were so they. Because of the eucalyptus flammable also keep bugs from eating it have in a wildfire prone areas from! Can produce. ” -Scott Stephens, UC Berkeley fire ecologist Grassetti and Maloney (. Some fuel here, ” he says thistles and grass ” —the brush— “ going... Can collect inches of fog-drip a year, sometimes putting on 4 to feet! Catch on fire. ”, “ the forests are beautiful constituent of eucalyptus spring up either... Are underway to eradicate the introduced species and grasses produce sparks and firebrands too, Stephens says, side... Types of trees in the woods there is the warm scent of sawdust and chipper! Acres, roughly 800 are dominated by blue gum—representing perhaps a quarter of the trails so! Protest outside the Sierra Club ’ s not clear whether the eucalypts would be removed an art to it should... To your inbox each week containing abundant essential oils measured and scaled up ”... Are prone to bush fires Berkeley, where all of the areas owned by UC fire!