Although the Myrtle family is quite large (3000 species), none are native to the Bay Area. But one species is so wide-spread and prevalent many people think it's native:
Small populations of other Eucalyptus species exist, but Blue Gum is the predominant tree on the coast (which was mostly tree-less before the 1800's.) It was originally planted for lumber, windbreaks, and urban landscaping. Even in some of the naturally wooded areas of the Bay Area (the Berkeley/Oakland hill canyons, for example, where its fire hazard potential has been tragically demonstrated) it has become the dominant species.
Flowers: Creamy-white to yellowish, fuzzy.
Blooms: Winter - Spring
Leaves: Green, sickle shaped, very fragrant, 5 - 10 inches long.
Fruit/Seeds: Gray/green & brown nut-like seed capsules, 4 or 5 segmented, warty and ribbed; looking like some odd sort of phillips-head fastening device. 1 " across. Summer - Fall.
Location: Way too many places - along old roads, ranch house sites and creeks.
Status: Alien Invasive - Common.
600x450 JPG - 56K
Further description & Comment: Evergreen, up to 50 feet tall, very fast growing. It is the main source of oil of eucalyptus popular in medicines and salves. Constantly drops its aromatic leaves, which are slow to de-compose and causes a heavy detrius layer in Eucalyptus groves that can often choke out other vegetation, as well as affect the acidity levels of creeks and water sources. The thick and high leaf canopy also robs other native species of light and moisture.
Originally from Tasmania, Eucaplyptus were planted throughout California in the 1800's as timber, windbreaks and decorative groves.
"Eucs" are tough to get rid of - each tree drops hundreds of nuts each year, and even after cutting the stumps or fallen trunks will sprout multiple whole new trees. They aren't very deep-rooted, and tend to fall over in heavy winter storms.
Other species of Eucalyptus have been introduced to the coast, but none seem to spread as fast or have such an effect on the environment as E. globulus.
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