Eucalyptus smells nice, anyway

  Dear HCN,

I was amused by the vehemence of Ted Williams' essay, "The Eucalyptus: Sacred or profane?" (HCN, 2/18/02: The Eucalyptus: Sacred or profane?) as a native Californian living on the other coast.

My moldering 1968 copy of Munz's A California Flora and Supplement lists four species of eucalyptus as native. At the time the updated flora was published, there was some debate as to how long a plant had to be around to be considered native and what the criteria was for being a native plant (e.g., establishing itself outside of cultivation or being reported by a reputable botanist as natural).

Eucalyptus is indeed allelopathic, loving only its own gene pool, being toxic to other plants as Williams notes. When I left home 20 years ago, I recall eucalyptus was regularly included in mixed cords of firewood as the species was nicely aromatic when in flame. Evidently times have changed.

James R. Bernard
Harpswell, Maine