Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Invasive Species Folly–The Eucalyptus

Ted Williams writes in the January-February issue of Audubon magazine about "America's Largest Weed," the eucalyptus. I've long known that coastal California is famous for its odoriferous eucalyptus trees, but not until reading this article did I realize that California harbors not just a single species of eucalyptus, but no fewer than 100–all nonnative! Most native bird species do not use eucalyptus groves, where species diversity drops 70 percent. Those birds that are enticed to feed on the insects attracted to eucalyptus flowers often encounter the sticky gum produced by the trees. The gum clogs bills, faces, and nostrils, eventually causing the birds to suffocate or starve. But despite all of its negative qualities–you'll have to read the article to learn about the others–the eucalyptus has its admirers and proponents, misguided though they may be. In the city of Santa Cruz, for example, eucalyptus trees are protected under a Heritage Tree Ordinance. It is a criminal offense, punishable by a fine of not less than $500, to cut down any eucalyptus tree with a trunk measuring 16 or more inches in diameter.


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