The tree sheds bark and dead leaves, which make a perfect pile of tinder under the tree too. -Scott Stephens, UC Berkeley fire ecologist. 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 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. The oil leaves a smoggy miasma hanging over the eucalyptus groves. Andrew Sullivan, a bushfire expert at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Canberra, says that in Australia, dry eucalypt forest might accumulate eight to 12 tons of debris per acre. 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. A traditional aboriginal remedy, eucalyptus is a powerful antiseptic used all over the world for relieving coughs and colds, sore throats and other infections. “But I can use my professional judgment. Euc-defenders point out that the leaves of native California bay laurel trees also have a high oil content. 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. “If the plan says ‘thin eucalyptus,’ then that’s what I have to do,” he says. The summer fogs have faded, and it’s been unseasonably hot for a week. Eucalyptus. 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. When the wind stirs the boughs, drops of last night’s fog rain down on us. BIRDS AND THE BEES Some years ago, I was told that eucalyptus trees could spontaneously combust. 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. 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. 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. We walk uphill along Claremont Avenue, then hike up into the eucalyptus grove. Eucalyptus (/ ˌ juː k ə ˈ l ɪ p t ə s /) is a genus of over seven hundred species of flowering trees, shrubs or mallees in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae.Along with several other genera in the tribe Eucalypteae, including Corymbia, they are commonly known as eucalypts. You get away from stress, smell the smells, see the birds. “This one I made a promise to, that I was not going to let any harm come to 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. Like dry grass, blue gum leaves have a high surface-area-to-volume ratio and tend to build up in well-aerated piles. Efforts are underway to eradicate the introduced species and return woodlands to the native species. 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. Other Herbal Tea Posts You Might Enjoy Eucalyptus trees are common in California and the warmer states of the United States. He is among the pro-eucalyptus faction’s star fire authorities, although his expertise, he admits, is not in wildland fire. dont burn pine. The high oil content of eucalyptus leaves also means that they burn hotter than less oily leaves. Leaves or other components, meanwhile, can tell you only so much about the whole, and individual trees only so much about the forest. Depending on the type of wood and the conditions involved, a wood fire can begin to burn at approximately 300 degrees Fahrenheit, but full flames typically require a heat of 500 degrees Fahrenheit. It is tinder dry and contains the flammable oil. 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. 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Others who live in a region where eucalyptus is prevalent have used the firewood for years, have not had any issues and love it. 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. 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. Furthermore, the majority of the blue gum litter is small sticks, bark, and leaves, collectively known as “fine fuels.” These fine fuels are the source of a forest fire’s power, Sullivan says, easily ignited and quickly consumed. Overall, the FEMA plan calls for about 2,500 gallons of glyphosate herbicide (a possible carcinogen), or approximately 2.5 gallons per acre, to be applied to stumps. Eucalyptus bark is light; on the ground, it easily transmits flames. We target grass. A strong wind carries them throughout the surrounding area. 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. 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 oil helps to reduce pain and inflammation associated with many conditions. Near the crest of the hill, we come upon a large blue gum with seven boles. Eases Breathing Problems. 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. Sign up to get all the latest gardening tips! A strong wind begins blowing over the hills from the east. 1. We turn a corner and stop between a feller buncher (which both fells trees and gathers them into bunches) and a chipper. Though it was sunny and beginning to get warm on the downhill side of the road, here it is cool. I’m with Brad Gallup, a fire captain with the East Bay Regional Park District. More bark peels from the trunks and spills out from piles built up in the valleys between them. As intriguing as the theory is, Bowman thinks it goes too far, failing the Occam’s-razor test: It’s simpler to imagine that eucalyptus evolved with oily leaves because those oils deter insects and koalas; they evolved peeling bark because the falling bark takes parasitic epiphytes with it; and the trees quickly resprout en masse after fire because they’ve evolved to tolerate fire, not to enjoy it. Although the view didn’t change, I saw something different each time through the eyes of the person I was with. Perhaps as important, Kent says, this side is cheaper. It kills germs and stops infections from forming. This is another of blue gums’ talents—its bark makes ideal braziers. 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. The original question—whether blue gums are uniquely, dangerously flammable—often serves as proxy to these other debates. 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. But not today. Many species of eucalyptus both tolerate fire, hiding from the flames behind thick bark, and depend on it to open their seed pods. So did you really get a net fuel reduction? “I love eucalyptus,” Bowman says. Berkeley, CA 94710 “But the thing that’s most concerning is the volume of material it can produce.”. Relative humidity is in the low teens, and any moisture hidden in the debris below the trees has long wicked away. 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. 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. Sign up for our newsletter. 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. -Brad Gallup, EBRPD fire captain. Native plants, on the other hand, having evolved here over millennia, are better adapted to local conditions, they say. The forest between us and him is already mostly thinned. it clogs everything. That’s why the eucalyptus is called the tree of fire: it saves its seeds in woody pouches, releasing them in high 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. Removal of the trees has been recommended largely due to eucalyptus fire damage but also because they are taking the place of native species. Prepared by Andrew Lyne, ANBG staff, 2003 There are some 800 species of Eucalyptus. As a result, intensive researches are undertaken to find appropriate substitution to fossil fuels. Larger pieces of wood will prove difficult to split. The wildfires that are now threatening Sydney and other parts of New South Wales, Australia, are finding fuel in Australia's eucalyptus forests, … The effects of prescribed burning on soil temperatures, loss of elements from combusted litter and understorey shrubs, the chemistry of surface soil and percolating soil solutions, and on the rate of decay of subsequent litterfall have been measured in a sub-alpine Eucalyptus pauciflora-E. dalrypleana forest in the Brindabella Ranges west of Canberra. Eucalyptus firewood is known for burning very hot. Gallup, who has gray hair and thin-frame glasses, is dressed head-to-toe in navy and wears black leather fire boots. “Every piece of vegetation is flammable,” he says. The natural detritus under the tree is resistant to microbial or fungal break down due to the oils. Today eucalypts are to be found growing in many parts of the world for their timber and horticultural appeal. 5 years ago. From the gully below comes the whine of the saw; then it stops and a young eucalyptus topples over with a drawn-out crash. Nowadays, the increasing oil consumption throughout the world induces crucial economical, security, and environmental problems. Gallup parks his truck and we get out to walk down the fire trail. (510) 528-8550, Subscription Customer Service: According to a 2006 National Park Service study, that’s compared to California bay laurel trees, which average 18 tons per acre, and coast live oaks, which average just 11; an acre of grass, meanwhile, contains somewhere between one and four tons of plant material. 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. 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. It naturally resists the influence of moisture because of the high oil content it naturally contains. There are some native eucalyptus but the majority have been introduced. We target brush.” He studied forestry and says he can understand the attachment people feel. Second, Maloney says removing the eucalyptus would also remove windbreaks.. “This in here is a disaster waiting to happen,” he concludes. The 20-odd protesters—mostly white, mostly gray-haired—marched in a circle, holding up hand-lettered signs and photographs of butterflies and trees. Trees near the ridgeline can collect inches of fog-drip a year, sometimes even rivaling the amount they might collect from rainfall. Lv 4. This is Gallup’s favorite part of the job, he says—choosing which trees to remove, which trees to keep. I met him that morning at the park district fire station at the edge of Tilden Regional Park, and we’ve driven together into the park, stopping first at this overlook along Grizzly Peak Boulevard. Grade: 2-3: Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus: Allow to season well since the wood is very wet (sappy) when fresh. 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. 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. We target brush.” The leaves are also said to help a weak person Cast Off Evil; that is, to ensure a final break with wicked companions or to put a stop to personal weakness such as a drug, alcohol, or tobacco habit. Header illustrations by Jane Kim, InkDwell, Bay Nature Institute Not just any fire, but the fire, the fire that all this is about. Eucalyptus wood is resistant to rot and decay. Eucalyptus is a shrubby, flowering plant with a fresh and herbaceous fragrance. “Two, four, six, eight,” they shouted. 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. Because its components are easier to ignite, a grass fire can also spread much faster than a fire in trees. To find out where that rating came from, I followed a twisted path from document to document, each taking me a little further back in time. After arborists thin the smaller trees, youth crews will clean up debris and hanging bark. But then they catch on fire.” Steep for 10 minutes and drink. “I love trees,” he says. The eucalyptus tree, native to Australia, and now common in other parts of the world, is an exotic-looking and aromatic tree. Koalas love to munch on the leaves, and the essential oil is popular in aromatherapy and herbal remedies. 0 0. 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. They call the eucs bad neighbors. Although blue gums tend not to invade new territory, they are salt-the-earth occupiers: Along with shading out other species, their leaf litter leaches chemicals that suppress growth of native plants, even after the trees are removed. And in the bigger picture, simply thinning the trees, as the park district is doing on their properties, isn’t a great solution either. These beautiful stately trees are filled with aromatic oil, which makes them highly combustible. we burn mainly eucalyptus. Tucked away inside a rolled-up strip of bark, a fire might live for close to an hour and fly 20 miles. By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist. When you’re healthy, inhaling eucalyptus oil feels great and makes you glad to be alive. The workers who cut the trees then didn’t treat the stumps with herbicide, and now they’re regrown, more trunks and closer together. Smaller trees lie between, yet to be hauled off or chipped. 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. Thickets of eucalyptus spring up on either side, their leaves and bell-shaped nuts cluttering the roadside. “Yes, there is some fuel here,” Grassetti says, then gestures to the head-high brush that surrounds us. We stop at a turnout and hike up a path through tall grass that opens into a field. “Eucalyptus is flammable,” says Scott Stephens, a UC Berkeley fire ecologist. email@example.com. “Every piece of vegetation is flammable. Lots of people are familiar with Eucalyptus as an ingredient in cold remedies like Vicks VapoRub. 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. 1328 6th St., #2 The wet leaves didn’t burn, but the dry leaves of both species flared impressively and smoked up my apartment. He says the FEMA plan ignores both the task force’s findings and good sense—that removing the trees would actually make the hills more liable to burn, as exemplified by this field, once covered in blue gums, now thick with grass and thistles. But then they catch on fire.”, “The forests are beautiful. Kent and I walk the same path that I took with Grassetti and Maloney. The ability to retain the trunk gives the eucalyptus species a jump start on regrowing from the ashes. For advocates of the FEMA plan, Signpost 29 is a good example of what will happen when eucalyptus is removed; to their opponents, it is a prime example of the folly in removing the trees. We drive next to Signpost 29, for another view of the possible future. Find more gardening information on Gardening Know How: Keep up to date with all that's happening in and around the garden. But the thing that’s most concerning is the volume of material it can produce.” But there is no peer-reviewed version of my informal test. Along with the sweet medicine smell of the trees, there is the warm scent of sawdust and a sour hint of exhaust. My third visit to Signpost 29 is with Jerry Kent. It may also be helpful to people experiencing back pain or those recovering from a joint or muscle injury. The shower of firebrands tossed from the ridgeline by the 100-foot-tall trees foils any attempt to create a firebreak. 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. His most recent article for Bay Nature was on the Resilient by Design contest and the future of the Bay’s shoreline. The air begins to smell of fresh sawdust. 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. 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 an amazing just-so story,” he says of the possibility: “Eucalypts evolved to burn their neighbors.”. 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. Anonymous. So are eucalyptus trees flammable? That’s the idea in thinning the eucalyptus—not to prevent fire, but merely to create the possibility of keeping it from growing out of control even in those rare instances when conditions are at their worst. Bark still hangs from trunks, awaiting the youth crews. As a result of climate change and rising temperatures, the risk of forest fires grows accordingly. (For context, a single kitchen match is worth about one BTU.). Variables that determine the temperature of a wood fire include the wood species and the water content of the wood before … 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. Eucalyptus is a popular evergreen tree that’s widely used for its medicinal properties. 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. In the same way that blowing on a campfire will rouse the coals, wind increases the amount of oxygen to a fire and hastens its spread. It’s not personal. 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. It did not offer an explanation. 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. It argued that clearing trees would actually make the hills more flammable. The plant is already head and shoulders above the native species when fire recovery begins. But now, standing by Grassetti’s favorite tree, even this most damning of blue gum statistics seems woefully abstract. There, the debate isn’t over whether the trees are flammable, says David Bowman, a fire ecologist at the University of Tasmania, but about whether the trees have simply evolved to survive fire, or whether they actually promote fire as a way to snuff out competitors. It may need assistance from another faster burning wood such as Birch to keep it burning well. Some wood fires reach heats as high as 1600 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s not just eucalyptus we target. In the middle of the field is a pile of eucalyptus logs, surrounded by waist-deep thistles and grass. Eucalyptus Oil. “We’re trying to change fire behavior, to make it easier to put the fire out, to give people more time to evacuate.” A man in a hard hat and orange vest emerges from the bushes, then cuts through another tree. What do you think?’”, “Eucalyptus is flammable. For most of the year, these trees would collect fog and slow the breeze, and they might indeed make a fire less likely, Scott Stephens says.