Eucalyptus Tree Bark – Learn About Peeling Bark On A Eucalyptus

Most trees shed bark as new layers develop under older, dead bark, but in eucalyptus trees the process is punctuated by a colorful and dramatic display on the trunk of the tree. Learn about peeling bark on a eucalyptus tree in this article.

Do Eucalyptus Trees Shed Their Bark?

They certainly do! The shedding bark on a eucalyptus tree is one of its most charming features. As the bark dries and peels, it often forms colorful patches and interesting patterns on the trunk of the tree. Some trees have striking patterns of stripes and flakes, and the peeling bark may expose bright yellow or orange colors of the new bark forming underneath.

When a eucalyptus is peeling bark, you don’t need to be concerned for its health or vigor. It is a natural process that occurs in all healthy eucalyptus trees.

Why Do Eucalyptus Trees Shed Bark?

In all types of eucalyptus, the bark dies each year. In smooth bark types, the bark comes off in flakes curls or long strips. In rough bark eucalyptus, the bark doesn’t fall off as easily, but accumulates in entwined, stringy masses of the tree.

Shedding eucalyptus tree bark may help keep the tree healthy. As the tree sheds its bark, it also sheds any mosses, lichens, fungi and parasites that may live on the bark. Some peeling bark can perform photosynthesis, contributing to the rapid growth and overall health of the tree.

Although the peeling bark on a eucalyptus is a big part of the tree’s appeal, it is a mixed blessing. Some eucalyptus trees are invasive, and they spread to form groves because of their lack of natural predators to keep them in check and the ideal growing conditions in places like California.

The bark is also highly flammable, so the grove creates a fire hazard. Bark hanging loose on the tree makes ready tinder, and it quickly carries the fire up to the canopy. Attempts are underway to thin stands of eucalyptus and remove them entirely from areas prone to forest fires.

Having taken into account the habit features, the next important character to assess in eucalypts is the type of bark. It pays to think in terms of the growth processes. Each year there is an increment of living bark that results in the continual expanding girth of the tree. In all species the outermost layer dies each year. In about half of the species this dead layer completely sheds, exposing a new layer of living bark, and the process continues year after year. These are known as the smooth barks. The dead bark may be shed from these trees in large slabs, in ribbons, or in small flakes. Invariably the newly exposed living bark is relatively smooth and brightly coloured but this fades with weathering. Often the dead bark comes off in pieces at various times of the year such that the trunk is mottled depending on the amount of time the newly revealed patches of bark are exposed to weathering.

A curious but easily recognised bark type is the minnirichi which is restricted to Western Australian species (apart for E. orbifolia which occurs in South Australia as well). This bark is rough on first appearance and on close inspection is seen to be formed of partly shed longitudinal strips that curl outwards, initially exposing pale or greenish underbark. The older attached strips turn deep red on aging. In one minniritchi species, in particular, the lower bark becomes thick and fibrous while only the upper bark is typical minnirichi.

In many species the smooth bark is uniform over the whole trunk in both texture and colour, e.g. E. mannifera and E. salmonophloia. In others the bark is mottled, while in a few species, particularly the red gums and the grey gums, the newly exposed smooth bark can be brilliant orange or yellow, fading to greys, the surface texture of which becomes granular with age.

E. cladocalyx of South Australia and E. diversicolor of Western Australia show these characters to some extent suggesting an ancient common origin of these various groups.

In the ribbon gums the long strips of dead bark are imperfectly shed and hang conspicuously in the crown, particularly around the trunk.

In great contrast are the remaining half of the eucalypts, the rough barks, in which the outer annual increment of dead bark simply dries out, leaving the natural fibres which do not shed and which accumulate year after year. These may remain loosely intertwined as in stringybarks, e.g. E. macrorhyncha and in peppermints, e.g. E. radiata, or become infused with gum exudates which harden, resulting in the ironbark, e.g. E. crebra, E. paniculata or the compacted types of rough bark, e.g. E. smithii and E. elata.

The ironbarks only occur in northern Australia and eastern Australia but some species from south-western Western Australia have very hard rough bark that is thinner than that of the ironbarks to which they are entirely unrelated, e.g. E. decipiens and E. indurata.

Assessing rough bark type is one of the hardest part in identifying eucalypts. The rough bark may cover the whole trunk and branches, or it may shed from the branches, or from the trunk only, but to certain characteristic heights up the trunk. Consequently we refer to species as being wholly rough-barked or partly rough-barked, half-barked, or with rough bark only at the base (black butt). There will be a range of variation in the bark between trees of the same species. This is illustrated by E. decipiens which is divided taxonomically into three subspecies diagnosed by the type of rough bark. Therefore, because there are so many different types of rough bark, defined by their texture, colour and persistence on the trunk, we must conclude that bark, because of the variability and imprecision of the descriptive terms, is a feature of only medium reliability for identification purposes.

Types of rough bark

BACK TO EUCALYPT FEATURES

Bark from a rainbow eucalyptus, by Christopher Martin. Older bark layers in shades of pastel purple, rusty red, and burnt orange peel away to reveal younger layers in chartreuse and dark green hues.

The Willy Wonka candy coloration of the rainbow eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta) makes it a photographer’s delight. “It’s like a botanical kaleidoscope,” says David Lorence, Director of Science at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kalaheo, Hawaii.

The bark on this tall, slender tree begins as a chartreuse green but turns dark green, pastel purple, rusty red, and burnt orange as it ages. Scant research has been done on why the colors change so dramatically, says David Lee, an emeritus professor of botany at Florida International University and the author of Nature’s Palette: The Science of Plant Color. But he volunteered to take a sample from a tree growing down the street from his South Florida home and make his best guess.

Here’s the scoop from his impromptu investigation: Dividing cambium cells—similar to stem cells in animals—produce a succession of thin barks, each dozens of cells thick, on a growing rainbow eucalyptus tree. Each bark layer has a transparent surface overlay just one cell thick, according to Lee, and the tissue underneath is packed with bright green chlorophyll. Over time, the clear surface cells become flush with the reddish brown color of tannins. These accumulations, plus a depletion in chlorophyll in the underlying tissue, lead to the apparent change in color of the bark layers.

“When you look at the tree trunk, you are seeing these multiple thin layers of bark, from the older layers peeling away to reveal younger layers,” Lee said in an e-mail. The continual peeling discourages other plants from growing on it, says Lorence of the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

The small white flowers of the rainbow eucalyptus are packed with nectar, making it a good honey source. Photo by David Lee

While most eucalyptus species are native to Australia, where the climate is drier, the rainbow eucalyptus is indigenous to the lush forests of Indonesia and the Philippines. It’s also been introduced to places such as Southern California and Hawaii, as well as South Florida, as an ornamental tree. “It likes wet feet and a more humid climate,” says Lorence. Alternately known as the Mindanao gum, the rainbow eucalyptus grows fast—more than three feet per year—and can reach heights of more than 240 feet. Its small white flowers are packed with nectar, making it a good source for honey.

Christopher Martin, a Canadian photographer whose work has been featured in National Geographic Traveler, had heard about rainbow eucalyptus trees and decided to capture one on camera during a recent trip to Hawaii. Internet research pointed him to the Keahua Arboretum on the island of Kaua’i, where he found the tree pictured above.

On his way to the colorful grove, Martin ducked rain showers and forded a swollen stream. The precipitation turned out to be serendipitous: The clouds afforded him lots of soft, diffused light, and the water brought out deeply saturated hues in the bark. “These vibrant colors just popped” off the trunk, Martin says.

Meet the Writer

About Andrew P. Han

@HanAndrewP

Andrew is a New York-based freelance writer. He was Science Friday’s intern during fall 2013.

Eucalyptus Trimming – Tips On How To Cut Eucalyptus Plants

Eucalyptus tree plants are well known for their rapid growth, which can quickly become unmanageable if left unpruned. Pruning eucalyptus not only makes these trees easier to maintain, but it also can reduce the amount of leaf litter and improve their overall appearance. Keep reading to learn more about how to prune a eucalyptus tree.

When to Cut Eucalyptus

While many people assume fall to early spring is an appropriate time for eucalyptus trimming, this isn’t the case at all. In fact, pruning too near the onset of cold weather or post freezing temperatures can trigger dieback and encourage disease. The best time for pruning eucalyptus is during the heat of summer. Although some bleeding of sap may occur, these trees actually heal quicker in hot weather. For large wounds, however, applying a wound dressing may be necessary after cutting to prevent infection.

Also, you may want to avoid cutting eucalyptus tree plants during excessively humid conditions, as this can leave them susceptible to fungal infections, which are most prevalent under these conditions.

How to Prune Eucalyptus Tree

There are several methods for pruning eucalyptus, depending on your needs and the species grown. This includes the following:

  • Hedge pruning is a suitable method for species like E. archeri, E. parviflora, E. coccifera, and E. suberenulata. In order to shape these trees into hedges, prune them at the end of their second season, removing about a third of the height and cutting in a pyramid shape. Continue to remove about one-quarter of the tree the following year and thereafter in the same manner.
  • Specimen pruning helps keep eucalyptus looking attractive when used as a focal point in the landscape. Do not cut any lower branches for the first 6 feet. Instead, wait until the tree has at least two season’s growth. Keep in mind that many of the faster-growing species will actually shed lower branches on their own.
  • Coppicing is another method of eucalyptus pruning to help control the tree’s height. With this method, slightly angle the cuts, pruning back about a foot to 18 inches from the ground and removing all side shoots. For unsightly or leggy growth, cut back to about 6 inches from the ground. Select the best looking shoot and allow this to develop, cutting all others.
  • Pollarding encourages branching at the tops of trees and lower height. This pruning is recommended for trees that are at least three to six years old. Cut eucalyptus tree trunks about 6 to 10 feet from the ground, leaving the side branches.

Why and How to Coppice Eucalyptus
General notes on the practice of Coppicing

Coppicing is an old horticultural technique whereby a tree or shrub is pruned down to or near ground level. This stimulates the buds around the root collar and lower part of the trunk or stem into frenetic growth; many new shoots are produced. This method is used to :

1. rejuvenate old shrubs that have become leggy or lack vigour

2. renovate an old hedge that is used to being hard pruned such as Beech, Hornbeam or Yew

3. control the vigour of large trees and shrubs

4. produce a multi-stemmed tree or shrub

5. produce a crop such as Ash for firewood, Hazel stems for bean sticks, Willow for biomass and charcoal

6. encourage young ornamental juvenile stem growth in Dogwoods (Cornus sibirica ‘Westonbirt’) and Willows such as Salix acutifolia ‘Blue Streak’

7. encourage large leaves in Paulownia tomentosa and Catalpa bignonoides when grown as a shrub

The time of year that this activity is carried out is species specific, but in the main, coppicing is done while the plant is dormant in the winter months, except Eucalyptus which need to be done in the spring.

Eucalyptus and coppicing

The biology of Eucalyptus is such that many species lend themselves to coppicing. All species that produce a lignotuber (and some Eucalyptus do not) will respond well to the practice. Click here to read more about the lignotuber.

Eucalyptus are coppiced for the following reasons:

1. To control growth so that a large tree can be grown and enjoyed as a shrub

2. To reduce wind-throw and stabilise the tree. It can be allowed to grow out of this at a later date, to produce a larger tree as required

3. To produce juvenile cut foliage for flower arranging either in your own garden or as a commercial crop

4. To produce a crop of firewood logs click here to read more about grow your own firewood

There are two different heights to prune down to, depending on what you want to achieve with your Eucalypt.

Size of tree to coppice

Allow your newly planted young Eucalyptus two full growing seasons in the ground before coppicing. Ideally, the diameter of the trunk at the base of the tree needs to be in excess of 50 mm (2 inches) before you prune it down. This means that the tree is now of a size whereby the root system has established well into the surrounding soil and built up sufficient reserves to allow regeneration after coppicing.

Coppicing removes the food factory of the plant as well as the suppressant growth hormones (the chemicals produced in the shoot tips that prevent side shoots from growing) . Therefore, immediately after pruning down, the dormant buds in the trunk and lignotuber have to rely on the food stored in the root system for an emergency energy supply, until they have produced leaves to photosynthesize.

Coppicing a young tree that is not large enough to undergo the process may kill it.

There is no upper age limit for the practice; quite large and mature, old trees can be coppiced, provided they are of the right species.

Time of year

  • For Eucalyptus – beginning of March up to beginning of May.

  • Avoid carrying out this practice from October onwards and certainly not during the winter months.

  • Autumn is too late to allow the pruning wound sufficient healing time before the onset of heavy frost, which can cause the bark to delaminate from the main trunk.

Technique

Using sharp bypass loppers or a very sharp saw if the trunk is very large, prune down to the stump and remove all side shoots with secateurs or loppers. The latter is important to force the lignotuber and subcutaneous shoots to break dormancy, otherwise the Eucalypt with generate weak shoots off the thin side shoots, which is undesirable. The height of the residual stump varies according to your end goal.

Height to prune down to

The choice is between pruning down to 100-120 mm (about 4-5 inches) or pruning down to 450 mm (18 inches). There may not seem to be a large enough difference between the two sizes, but our trials in the nursery have shown that there is a different shooting response from the tree, dependant upon the residual length of the trunk.

Coppice method ‘A’, if the goal is to:

1. To reduce instability in a young tree (coppice at the age of 3 years +)

2. Control height of a tall species on a regular basis (coppice every 3 years or so)

3. Produce firewood production (carry out coppicing every 8 years)

The ideal height for cutting down to is 100-120 mm (about 4-5 inches).

1. Use a slanting cut to disperse sap and rainwater away from the wound and preferably facing south so the sun can aid drying and healing the wound.

2. Remove all side shoots.

3. Tidy up any jagged edges. Remember to treat the wound with a proprietary pruning compound, available from your local garden centre.

The bark may loosen if the cut is made lower that 100 mm, at ground level.

If the cut is made much higher than 150 mm, you are not activating the strong buds near the root collar and for a mature tree, you are reducing its long term success rate of the operation.

About six weeks or so, after pruning down, you will see a mass of new shoots emanating from around the base of the trunk and also from the trunk itself. As the growth hormones in the new shoot tips begin to flow, dominance is re-instated and the largest thickest shoots, highest up the stem tend to take over.

These suppress further bud and young shoot development.

Finally a handful of shoots will lead the way and you have the choice to select the best to grow up as a single trunk or a group of three as an attractive multi-stemmed tree (which is also best for fire-log production).

Windward side shoots are preferable to leeward side shoots, because they are less likely to be wind-thrown in bad weather (i.e. peel off in a gale).

If your plan is to re-grow the new shoot up into a new tree trunk, you will find it best to select a shoot nearer to the root collar as possible. The callous tissue is stronger lower down, has better attachment to the stump, creating a more stable new trunk. The further up the trunk, the weaker the callous and therefore these shoots are less stable.

Coppice method ‘B’, if the goal is to:

1. To produce cut foliage for flower arranging

2. To grow for ornamental juvenile foliage

3. To keep as a manageable shrub rather than a tree

In this instance, the ideal height for pruning is 450 mm (about 18 inches)

1. Use a slanting cut to disperse sap and rainwater away from the wound and preferably facing south so the sun can aid healing the wound.

2. Remove ALL side shoots.

3. Tidy up any jagged edges. Remember to treat the wound with a proprietary pruning compound, available from your local garden centre.

Young buds can be seen breaking dormancy after about 4 weeks. Shoots will be about 400-500 mm long by 8 weeks and grow quickly over the summer months. This is when some additional irrigation may be helpful if rainfall is sparse.

By the autumn, new stems will be anywhere between 600 and 1200 mm long and ready for harvesting.

Shoots higher up the stem will be longer, whilst shoots lower down will be shorter, being suppressed by their taller siblings.

For cut foliage production, you can pick the shoots any time after they have ripened in the autumn, between October and March. Now I know that this is a contradiction, first we say don’t prune in the winter and then we say pick your foliage in the winter.

We have been advised by commercial foliage growers that the stems are harvested in the winter months, because that is when the wood is ripe (firm) and not actively growing fast and therefore fleshy and prone to wilting. The stems are good for floristry work, but the tree is at risk of suffering frost damage, especially if grown in a particularly cold part of the UK. Most commercial producers are to be found on the west coast of England and Wales or in Ireland, where they escape the harsh winter weather.

If you wish to use your Eucalyptus for floral art click here to see our notes on conditioning and preserving.

Alternatively, if you are growing the Eucalypt purely as an ornamental garden shrub, leave it for a further growing season before you coppice it again.

Choice of species for Cut Foliage

The juvenile form of the Eucalypt is favoured by florists and flower arrangers, being distinctly different from the more elongated mature foliage. Juvenile foliage often has the best range of colours, silvery blues suffused with white, shades of pink, violet and burgundy and sometimes a little bright acid green.

Many species are used in traditional arrangements and bouquets. In particular the Silver Leaved Mountain gum (E. pulverulenta) and the smaller (E. pulverulenta ‘Baby Blue’), Small Leaved gum (E. parvula) and Cider gum (E.. gunnii) are very reliable and popular.

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The feathery foliage of Narrow-leaved Black Peppermint (E. nicholii) is delicate looking and especially attractive.

However, the Spinning gum (E. perriniana) is very effective in modern installations.

  • The Candle Bark gum (E. rubida) is new and gaining ground as a red stemmed species with tones of pink/violet and burgundy in the new shoots.

  • Click here to be taken to our flower arranging collection in our shop

  • Full species recommended for cut foliage:

  • E. archeri

  • E. coccifera

  • E. crenulata

  • E. glaucescens

  • E. gunnii

  • E. gunnii divaricata

  • E. nicholii

  • E. parvula

  • E. perriniana

  • E. pulverulenta

  • E. pulverulenta ‘Baby Blue’

  • E. risdonii in sheltered areas

  • E. rubida

  • E. stellulata

  • E. subcrenulata

  • E. urnigera

  • Avoid the following species for foliage production as they have poor coppicing ability:

  • E. delegatensis

  • E. fraxinoides

  • E. nitens but it will regenerate sufficiently to be used as one of the standard species used in firewood production, but will need re-planting after 24 years (i.e. 3 rotations)

  • E. pauciflora group but will grow back from their lignotuber, but generally are poor at coppicing

Aside from its visual appeal, eucalyptus is a tree that has been credited with many health benefits and medicinal uses.

Summary of Eucalyptus facts

Name – Eucalyptus
Family – Myrtaceae
Type – tree

Height – 32 to 130 feet (10 to 40 m)
Climate – temperate to warm
Exposure – full sun

Soil – ordinary, well drained
Foliage – evergreen
Hardiness – 26°F (-3°C) to 0°F (-18°C) depending on the variety

  • Health: benefits of eucalyptus

Planting eucalyptus

Eucalyptus is a tree that is best planted in fall or at the beginning of spring.

Its growth is quite fast and it doesn’t require any particular care.

  • Choose a rather sunny spot, ideally well protected from strong winds.
  • Incorporate planting soil mix into your garden soil when planting.
  • Endeavor to water well over the 1st year after planting.

Proper mulch will avoid having weeds proliferate around the trunk and will protect the root system when winters are cold, especially during the first few years.

Pruning and caring for eucalyptus

Eucalyptus care is very easy because it requires practically no attention at all once it has settled in comfortably.

Pretty hardy, eucalyptus has no known common disease. It sometimes is attacked by psyllids.

However, it is at times vulnerable to the cold, and most eucalyptus varieties cannot withstand temperatures below 23°F (-5°C).

  • Thick mulch around the tree for the 1st few years should help it cope with winter freezing well.

How to prune a eucalyptus tree

No pruning is required but if you must reduce or balance the branches out, act in spring or end of summer for pruning. Abundant sap makes for quick wound-closing and healing.

  • Avoid pruning or wounding your tree in winter or in very moist weather to keep fungus out.

Eucalyptus offshoots and offsides

Eucalyptus is very vigorous and if growing conditions are optimal, it will send shoots up from its roots, much like the strong root stock of certain grafted fruit trees in an orchard. These are called root suckers.

Here is how to deal with eucalyptus root suckers:

  • Snip them off as soon as you see them. Mowing the lawn usually does the trick.
  • For larger specimens, cut them down with lopers or a saw or machete.
  • If the stump is too large, you might have to dig it out entirely, severing the root to the mother tree

If digging roots out, once you’ve cut the root coming from the mother tree, let the wound “cure” or dry in shaded air for a couple hours before filling the hole back in.

There’s no permanent solution to keep the eucalyptus from sending shoots up, so going around the garden with pruning shears every once and a while must become part of your regular garden routine!

All there is to know about eucalyptus

Native to Australia, Eucalyptus is a member of the Myrtaceae family. Although the geographical point of origin is on the other side of the world, Eucalyptus radiata or narrow-leaved peppermint has adapted to many climates in the western hemisphere, together with other eucalyptus species such as Eucalyptus gunnii, Eucalyptus niphophilia or Eucalyptus globulus.

Eucalyptus is a tree that can be found in many regions of the planet, like Europe, Latin America, Africa, Madagascar or the Middle East.

It bears beautiful flowers that are easily recognized thanks to their silvery shimmering in the light. Its trunk peels in colorful layers that meld silver, brown and green.

Blooming is only possible in warmer climates for this tree native to Australia and Tasmania.

In those countries, the blooming provides excellent nectar for honey production.
The leaves are peppered with oil glands, which makes it great for producing eucalyptus essential oil.

Eucalyptus flavor even appears in mint-flavored chewing gum and in cough drops!

  • Read also: health benefits of eucalyptus

Eucalyptus cultivars worth taking note of

Here is a selection of eucalyptus cultivars that are found appealing for their decorative properties, their size, hardiness or medicinal properties.

  • Eucalyptus camaldulensis – Also called “River Red gum” or “river gum”, it is used to produce essential oil.
  • Eucalyptus citriodora – Goes by the name of “lemon gum” or “lemon eucalyptus”. It spreads a scent of lemon and is mostly used for its anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Eucalyptus deglupta – Also known as the “rainbow eucalyptus” or “Mindanao gum”. It boasts an amazing very ornamental trunk with swaths of blue, orange and red. It is commonly used to produce paper.
  • Eucalyptus globulus – “Blue gum” is another name for this tree. It is widely grown and its extracts are used to reinforce the immune system.
  • Eucalyptus gunnii – This variety is used to create perfume, and it grows well in cooler, more temperate climates.
  • Eucalyptus radiata – Another name for this tree is “narrow-leaved peppermint”, and it is used to produce essential oil. It mostly grows in Australia.
  • Eucalyptus regnans – This “Royal eucalyptus” can reach over 330 feet (100 m) tall !
  • Eucalyptus smithii – Also called “Smith’s eucalyptus” or “gully gum”. Its delicate essential oil is what it is grown for since it is an excellent disinfectant.
  • Eucalyptus niphophila – Also called “white sallee” and “snow gum”. This is the hardiest of all Eucalyptus varieties, it can withstand freezing temperatures as low as -4°F (-20° C).

Smart tip about eucalyptus

Plant this tree in a wide open space, because it quickly grows dozens of yards or meters high.

Read also

  • Health: benefits of eucalyptus

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Grown eucalyptus tree by Kylie under license
Eucalyptus flower by an anonymous photographer under license
Bark of the eucalyptus tree by Siggy Nowak under license

Here at Tree Barber we’re dedicated to an environmentally safe approach to Tree Care and land management. This is done by only using proper pruning techniques, fertilization and insect control. We specialize in all aspects of residential and commercial Tree Care and use the safest and most advanced methods. We only employ qualified Certified Arborists and Certified Tree Workers to ensure all the work we perform is done in the right manner, quickly, safely and economically.

We receive many calls about Eucalyptus trees for good reason, as they are prone to crack and break frequently. There are dozens of different species of Eucalyptus trees that grow on the west coast and that are prevalent in San Diego. Eucalyptus trees are very fast growing and draw a lot of water out of the root systems up into the canopy. With already heavily weighted branches, Eucalyptus trees do tend to crack and break. Therefore, it’s essential to have your Eucalyptus trees regularly inspected by a Certified Arborist and have them pruned every couple of years.

Pruning and Trimming

Regular Tree Pruning is important because more people are hit by falling Eucalyptus branches than by any other type of trees. These trees are also extremely prone to being blown over by high windstorms. In fact, strong winds and unhealthy Eucalyptus trees cause a great deal of structural damage to homes each year in California. Professional pruning can be considered both preventative care and routine maintenance and is one of the most important things you can do for your trees.

Tree Health

Most problems with Eucalyptus trees occur when the trees are stressed. This can be the result of disease or insects. There are several fungi that can cause Eucalyptus tree diseases including Root Rot that first shows itself through discolored leaves and dark brown wood directly under the bark.

These are all good reasons why it’s important to have your Eucalyptus trees inspected regularly by an expert. With regular pruning and inspection by a Certified Arborist, you will be helping to increase the strength of your Eucalyptus trees to ensure their long-term health.

View our YouTube video to hear what Paul Rider, our Certified Arborist has to say on your Eucalyptus tree.

More questions about your tree? Call us today: 760.745.7871

Tree Barber is proud to help residents through out North County San Diego since 1983. Helping the areas of Escondido, Vista, Oceanside, Bonsall, Carlsbad, Del Mar, Leucadia, Encinitas, Fallbrook, Poway, Rancho Bernardo, 4S Ranch, Santa Luz, Rancho Penasquitos, Rancho Santa Fe, San Marcos, Lake San Marcos, San Elijo Hills and Solana Beach.

Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus is a genus of the myrtle family, Myrtaceae, and is native to Australia. There are over 700 varieties of eucalyptus known to date – most of which are common to Australia. There are only 15 varieties of eucalyptus that naturally occur outside Australia.

Almost all eucalyptus are evergreen and the leaves are covered with oil glands. The natural oil contains powerful disinfectants and can even be toxic. Koala Bears are intolerant of the oil and eat the leaves in vast quantity. Eucalyptus oil is used to make cleaning products, deodrants, cough sweets and toothpaste.

In the wholesale flower markets, eucalyptus is one of the most popular foliages used by florists because of it’s pleasent smell & the fact that it bulks out well in any flower arrangement. Eucalyptus is especially popular for it’s use in wedding flowers, with the new 40cm mini varieties fast becoming a favourite.

Most eucalyptus is sold by weighted bunches, but the 200gm is now stem counted and sold in buckets of 50 or 100 stems. The heavier grades are sold in 300, 400 and 500gm bunches – most being no taller than 60cm in stem length.

You can buy wholesale eucalyptus on our Web-Shop by clicking here.

Eucalyptus Branch Drop: Why Eucalyptus Tree Branches Keep Falling

Eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus spp.) are tall, beautiful specimens. They adapt easily to the many different regions in which they are cultivated. Although they are quite drought tolerant when established, the trees can react to insufficient water by dropping branches. Other disease issues can also cause branch drop in eucalyptus trees. Read on for more information about falling eucalyptus branches.

Eucalyptus Branch Drop

When eucalyptus tree branches keep falling from the tree, it may mean that the tree is suffering from disease. If your eucalyptus tree suffers from an advanced rot disease, the leaves wilt or become discolored and fall from the tree. The tree may also suffer eucalyptus branch drop.

Rot diseases in the tree occur when the Phytophthora fungi infects the roots or crowns of the tree. You may be able to see a vertical streak or canker on infected eucalyptus trunks and a discoloration beneath the bark before you see falling eucalyptus branches.

If dark sap oozes from the bark, your tree likely has a rot disease. As a result, branches die back and may fall from the tree.

If branch drop in eucalyptus signals a rot disease, the best defense is planting or transplanting the trees in well-drained soil. Removing infected or dying branches may slow the spread of the disease.

Eucalyptus Branches Falling on Property

Falling eucalyptus branches do not necessarily mean that your trees have a rot disease, or any disease for that matter. When eucalyptus tree branches keep falling, it may mean that the trees are suffering from extended drought.

Trees, like most other living organisms, want to live and will do whatever they can to prevent demise. Branch drop in eucalyptus is one means the trees use to prevent death in times of severe lack of water.

A healthy eucalyptus tree suffering from long-term lack of water may suddenly drop one of its branches. The branch will not show any sign of disease on the inside or the outside. It will simply fall from the tree to allow the remaining branches and trunk to have more moisture.

This presents a real danger to homeowners since the eucalyptus branches falling on property can cause damage. When they fall on human beings, injuries or death can be the result.

Advance Signs of Falling Eucalyptus Branches

It is not possible to predict the falling eucalyptus branches in advance. However, a few signs may indicate possible danger from eucalyptus branches falling on property.

Look for multiple leaders on a trunk that might cause the trunk to split, a leaning tree, branch attachments that are in a “V” shape rather than a “U” shape and decay or cavities in the trunk. If the eucalyptus trunk is cracked or the branches hanging, you may well have a problem.

San Diego Reader

“Deport the eucalyptus back to Australia!”

That’s Johnny Sevier, a certified arborist, on the tree he loves to hate but that many San Diegans revere, the ubiquitous eucalyptus.

Long an arboreal staple in San Diego and environs, these tall, gangly imports make headlines now and then when branches give way at inopportune times, maiming or even killing. And Sevier says that local bureaucrats, fellow arborists, and euc-enthusiasts have blood on their hands.

Eucalyptus crime map

Map image provided by MyTopo

On March 9 of this year, the eucalyptus struck again, this time in Scripps Ranch, which is, along with Rancho Santa Fe, perhaps the epicenter of eucalyptus worship in San Diego County. At Miramar Ranch Elementary, school had just adjourned, and Lana O’Shea, a kindergarten teacher, was leading her saplings out to meet their parents. A eucalyptus limb, apparently weakened by prior rain and wind, broke off and plummeted, leaving O’Shea with injuries requiring a six-day stay at the hospital. According to some reports, O’Shea took the proverbial bullet (or literal branch) for her charges, pushing them away right before impact. In any event, the children were unharmed.

Johnny Sevier

Sevier, a voluble, colorful character — some would say feisty or even irascible — has a four-step plan to prevent the next airborne eucalyptus assault in San Diego. “Wake up, San Diego,” he proclaims, “there’s a simple solution. First, admit that planting eucalyptus in San Diego was a mistake with unintended consequences.” Next, he says, “Chainsaw, stump grinder, and different species.”

Unintended consequences? To address that notion, one must venture back to the hoary days of nascent San Diego, when the eucalyptus was touted as the perfect Southern Hemisphere import. Folks lauded its rapid growth and pleasing aesthetics. Its use for railroad ties was derailed by the wood’s tendency to warp when spiked. As for eucalyptus fishing poles fashioned for the local tuna fleet, that remains an apocryphal tale. Notwithstanding the tree’s dubious utility, it was here by the Civil War years.

Despite the eucalyptus’ rap sheet, there’s no shortage of defenders in Scripps Ranch, where eucalypti were planted by the thousands from the onset of the 20th Century into the Roaring Twenties. And just as the mother of an accused murderer is wont to plead, “My baby couldn’t have done that,” the civic guardians of all things floral in the Ranch are quick to excuse or minimize the culpability of their emblematic tree.

In the wake of the Miramar Ranch incident, I sought the perspective of one “Rancher,” Bob Ilko, president of the Scripps Ranch Civic Association. Ilko, a former officer with the San Diego Police Department, typifies the “neighborhood booster.”

“Just like the number of types of eucalyptus trees,” he quips, “there are people with differing opinions — love them, hate them, or are indifferent. As trees get older and taller, do they need to be laced back occasionally? Yes, you don’t top a eucalyptus tree, and sometimes you just have to take them out when, as the city maintenance people tell us, ‘they’re dead, dying, and dangerous.’”

Ilko is confident that the eucalyptus trees in the Ranch are under sufficient scrutiny.

“We have a certified arborist, Steve Hooker, who was our tree contractor for the maintenance assessment district in Scripps for over 20 years. He’s inspected every tree, looking for the telltale signs; dangerous trees have been removed as soon as they can be. But he’d never make a general statement that ‘all of them have to go.’” When I asked Ilko to comment on Sevier’s “chainsaw-and-stump-grinder” plan, Ilko, an affable, even-tempered man, sounded irked. “That’s his opinion.”

He flatly rejects the notion that the eucalyptus is uniquely hazardous.

“Every tree can be dangerous, just like every car can be dangerous. We’ve had how many hundreds of thousands of eucalyptus trees in Scripps Ranch? And how often do they fall? Not very often. I guess there’s always a risk; you could walk out in front of your house and get hit by a speeding driver, so you have to look at the individual tree’s health and size to evaluate whether it’s gonna fall over or not. But to just make a blanket statement about all eucalyptus? It’s just one opinion. There are plenty of people in Scripps who think the opposite, that the trees are completely fine. There are people in Scripps who’d love for them to go, but that’s impossible, because we don’t have 10 or 20 million dollars to cut every eucalyptus down. Then you gotta replant something; you just can’t take them all out and think it’s going to be fine and dandy.”

Ilko believes that even in Scripps Ranch, where Lana O’Shea narrowly escaped death, the odds of avoiding death-by-eucalyptus are greatly in one’s favor.

“We’ve got hundreds of thousands of these trees and they’re not killing people.” When I reminded Ilko of Frieda Williams’s death in 1983 at the San Diego Zoo, he replied, “I just read about a palm tree that fell over at a Carlsbad hotel and killed a tourist. Trees are trees, and they’re gonna fall.”

He also discounts Sevier’s role as an expert witness in the Williams wrongful-death suit against the zoo.

“For every plaintiff’s expert you have a defense expert. You can get people to say what you want them to say. You just have to pay them enough money. Sevier’s just one arborist; various arborists will have differing opinions. Maybe he’s right, technically, but even if he is, there’s not a pot of money to remove all these trees; it just isn’t gonna happen.” In any event, notes Ilko, “The eucalyptus is actually part of our community plan. They’re on the cover.”

When Johnny Sevier, born in Texas, came to San Diego in 1970, neither Scripps Ranch nor its community plan existed. He recalls, “After serving in the Air Force, I did my GI Bill at Mesa College. One day, while I was walking home from Mesa, I saw some tree trimmers at the side of the road and I thought, I’d like to do that. I was intrigued by the idea of people working on trees. I saw an ad in the Kearny Mesa AdViser for tree trimmers, and I showed up the next day for my first job with few tools and no experience. I said to the lady, ‘What would you like trimmed?’ I reached out my hand and she handed me $38. Slowly, I got more tools and rope, learned what I was doing, and eventually started hiring people to climb trees for me. One of the last trees I did before relocating to Texas was a 130-foot eucalyptus that was leaning towards a house in Scripps Ranch. I had to shoot a throw line with a special sling shot to get the rope up there so we could ascend to the top. It’s risky.”

If a tree falls…

Image by Andy Boyd

Risky? As Sevier is quick to remind us, death and dismemberment by eucalyptus are nothing new in San Diego. But other types of trees have been blamed for local fatalities and maimings, too. The eucalyptus has neither a monopoly on downed tree limbs nor severed human limbs. Most recently, a venerable oak, representative of a native species, no less, crashed onto a Pacific Beach street with nary a shout of “timber!” and crushed a passing car. “It’s always eucalyptus,” exclaims Sevier. “It stands far ahead of the crowd; there’s nothing else close. There was a Torrey pine that killed someone in Pacific Beach a while back, but in that case, there appeared to be a lot of concrete construction and cutting of roots. Eucalyptus is still the king!”

I ask Sevier: “Do you hate the eucalyptus?”

“No. I think eucalyptus trees are just wonderful but I hate what they do when they’re grown where they’re not supposed to be, where there are a lot of people around. They should never have been imported to Southern California; they should have been left in the Australian countryside. Acreage has actually increased over the past few decades. Have you visited Scripps Ranch? That’s maximum density in terms of an old stand.”

Intermittent ambivalence aside, Sevier remains steadfast in his anti-euc jihad. “Eucalyptus is the bad actor that rings the telephone emergency calls for tree service, due to whole tree failure or limb failure. They’re responsible for 90 percent of the calls.”

I solicit Sevier’s comments on Steve Hooker’s view, as set forth in the Scripps Ranch Civic Association newsletter, that it’s enough to identify and remove certain trees that appear unhealthy, but neither possible nor desirable to remove all dead and dying trees. “That’s it, right there! The tree isn’t dying back or having health problems; it’s the health of the tree that’s the problem. They outgrow their own strength and they fall apart. It’s so simple. The tree that nearly killed the teacher wasn’t dead. Even if it had been a dead tree, it would have been an even more powerful story because what could be more obvious than a big dead tree, and why would a dead tree be allowed to stand? The other big smokescreen is, ‘It was a big, healthy tree — we never expected it.’” Sevier adds, “When they get older, sure, they get taller and more brittle, but the trees that almost killed the two Channel 10 TV reporters were no more than 35 or 40 years old. These are bullshit distractions, this fog of talking about false scenarios.”

The incident to which he refers took place in the early morning hours of February 1 of this year, when a 10News reporter and her cameraman, who were in Mira Mesa reporting on trees that had fallen during inclement whether, were struck and seriously injured by a falling eucalyptus tree. It was not raining, nor was there much wind when the incident happened.

I query Sevier, “What makes the eucalyptus more hazardous than other trees of the same size; e.g., an oak?”

“It outgrows its own strength. It has more weight on the limb than the limb can actually support. One of the terms you’ll hear is, ‘sudden branch drop phenomenon.’ In Australia, it got nicknamed ‘the widow maker.’ Workers would go out where the trees grow, and come home… dead.”

“But,” I ask, “is there anything good about the eucalyptus?” Grudgingly, he replies, “They make a great tall skyline and a very attractive logo. That’s wonderful when you’re driving down Pomerado Road, as long as that tall, skinny, brittle tree doesn’t smash the roof of your car, which has happened. But in terms of the usual qualities you look for in a tree, like shade, there are so many better choices, such as sycamore and ficus. The ficus puts out nice shade but doesn’t cause too many problems with limb breakage. They’ll cost you with the plumber but they won’t kill you.

“Have you heard of Dan Simpson, chief arborist at the zoo?” Sevier asks. “He hates my guts because I testified for the plaintiff in the Williams case.”

Sevier goes back to the death of Frieda Williams, the four-year-old who’d been sitting on a curb at the zoo when an old eucalyptus relinquished a branch for the last time.

San Diego Zoo eucalyptus that killed Frieda Willams (trial evidence)

Image by Johnny Sevier

“I testified that not only was the subject tree in the family of bad actors, but it had a history of limb failure. I have photos that show it. It wasn’t a heavy limb, 50 pounds or less, but it fell from high in the tree. There’s another thing that makes the eucalyptus so destructive and why it did such horrible damage to the reporter and camera man from Channel 10. Unlike a willow tree or Chinese elm, which have a lot of padding in the way of twigs and leaves, the eucalyptus doesn’t. Notice that when you look around Scripps Ranch, you’ve got 95 percent trunk with a little puff of growth out on the end. You don’t have a real canopy; you just have this long, skinny, very hard piece of wood. When it hits you, it’s like being hit by a piece of pipe from 50 or 70 feet in the air. It’s very unforgiving.”

Frieda Willams’ trial evidence

William O’Shea forgives neither the eucalyptus that injured his wife nor the bureaucrats that, in his view, facilitated the accident. Needless to say, if there were an organization called Save the Eucs, William O’Shea wouldn’t be the president. As he describes his wife’s injury and lingering effects, he says, “I’m extremely angry about this. That was my first thought then, and still is today. My wife’s not going to be the same person again. She’s got headaches, memory loss. Some days she does really well, but other days…. She had severe head trauma, severe lacerations, as well as broken ribs on her right side from falling down the stairs after the impact of the tree. She also has a lot of associated injuries I’m not going to talk about — you can figure it out. We don’t know when Lana will be able to go back to work; we’re very thankful she’s alive.”

Sevier says that prevention is feasible. “My plan would be to remove the eucalyptus trees from what we call ‘target areas.’ Who has been successful at removing the trees from target areas? The zoo did after the verdict came down in Williams . They set up a program of systematically removing the eucalyptus trees that could reach people when they fall or parts of them fall. So now, when you walk around the zoo — when you look at the entrance to the zoo, where there used to be this 75-foot monster that killed Frieda Williams — there’s no eucalyptus. They replaced them.”

I ask Sevier why more hasn’t been done to address the issue.

“The places that have taken tree action have done so when people have taken legal action. People being hurt or killed isn’t enough; you’ve gotta have a jury verdict. That’s really sad. The zoo and Caltrans are the only people who’ve actually done what I think should be done. There used to be what I called a ‘eucalyptus death row’ along the 163 where lots of people were injured or killed. Many eucalyptus trees would fail any time there was wind and rain. There were so many lawsuits that Caltrans was afraid that they’d eventually be assessed punitive damages with serious, seven-figure awards. So they phased them out.”

Sevier spoke about his pivotal role in the Williams matter.

“Before it went to trial, the zoo cut that tree down. But prior to that, I’d been doing a TV news interview under the tree and took pictures. That’s when I saw that the tree had a stub in it, indicating it had broken a limb before. I took this to trial where I testified as an expert witness. The zoo had the most honored tree expert on Earth, Dr. Richard Harris, as their expert. I’d never testified at trial in my life, and the zoo had this author, lecturer, Ph.D. in their corner. But when the jury saw that picture, their jaws just dropped; they didn’t care about the Ph.D.”

“If the eucalyptus is a ‘bad actor,’” I ask, “who are the good guys?”

“I’ve been in the tree business since May 1972, and I’ve never gotten an emergency call on a Chinese elm. They put out a canopy, they provide shade and beauty, they lose their leaves in the winter so they let light in on the other landscape. No one has ever said, ‘Mr. Sevier, I know it’s midnight, but we’ve got a Chinese elm that’s crushed the side of our house and we need your help.”

Sevier opines that one cause of “eucalypti gone wrong” is that in America, they’ve been coddled. “It’s a tree that can struggle in the Australian outback, so when you bring it to San Diego and plant it in areas with a lot of irrigation, the roots don’t have to go anywhere to get their nourishment; they have it right there. So the tree can grow very quickly, with a lot of height above ground. But under ground, the roots didn’t have to struggle to spread out. You have a giant above ground but a midget below. You’ve slowed down the anchoring process. Did you see the Channel 10 video? There was hardly any root; it’s all trunk. On a huge tree that’s fallen, there should be a big ’ol root ball tipped up, two stories high, but with the eucalyptus, it’s always the same — this small amount of roots. You get a good stretch of rain and then some wind, they go over just like bowling pins.”

To get another arborist’s view of the eucalyptus and Sevier’s condemnation of the Aussie as uniquely dangerous, I consulted Tony Rangel, a certified arborist and chief tree maven at Palomar College. Rangel’s response was measured. “I don’t have the concise data to confirm or deny this statement. However, if not tended to properly, the common species could end up being a liability down the road, yes. In Australia they must compete with each other for moisture and sunlight, so they grow very tall and fast to out-compete each other and the other species in their habitat. Most people in California over-water these species, which ultimately causes abnormal sustained growth. Because the trees are not genetically capable of developing strong lateral limbs compared to other trees, the resulting new, heavy growth at the end of the branches causes the limbs to fail.”

Tony Rangel

Rangel notes that “bad haircuts” seem to plague the eucalyptus. “One of the main problems for arborists is that often by the time we get called out to look at a specimen, it’s been previously topped by someone who didn’t know that topping dooms the tree to fail.”

Topping reduces height, leaving unnatural stubs. If it doesn’t kill a tree, it leads to abnormal growth near the cut — poorly attached limbs that, as they grow taller, will rip away from the stem or trunk.

I ask Rangel about the eucalyptus’s root system, which Sevier condemns as unduly shallow.

“There are countless species of trees that are shallow-rooted. In fact, nearly all trees produce their primary stability and feeder/absorption roots within the top two to three feet of the surface.” On the other hand, says Rangel, “I tried to transplant a eucalyptus years ago and recently tried to remove eucalyptus tree stumps; they often have pretty significant tap roots.”

In Rangel’s experience, when a eucalyptus topples, it’s due to poor planning or care.

“Often, the tall-growing species are planted in shallow soils; the roots never get a chance to go deep or wide enough to stabilize them in strong winds. At other times, large eucalyptus trees have roots pruned due to road work, sidewalk repair, or other concrete work. As a result, the tree can no longer support itself and falls over after the first storm. In other cases, pathogens begin to infect the roots of the tree and this can also cause failures….

“A big problem for any municipal arborist is managing trees that are the wrong species for the location.”

However, the eucalyptus isn’t unique in being misplaced. Rangel echoes Sevier’s view on past mistakes.

“When many of our cities were planned, not much sound, species-specific data was available for those who were doing the planting. This resulted in tall, large-growing tree species being planted in locations where smaller, shorter trees would have been better. Hindsight is always 20/20, and I am sure that most arborists can attest that a good portion of their calls result from this very problem.”

William O’Shea says, “I used to cut wood for a living back in Maine, so I’m familiar with wood.” Recalling the accident at Miramar Ranch Elementary, he comments, “It was the ‘perfect storm.’ It was a beautiful day when it happened, but two days prior to that, there was a wind and hail storm right on the campus. I went there to check out the site, but I didn’t see the actual branch, which is mislabeled; it’s actually a ‘bough.’ But I’ve seen the picture. It looks like it’s more than 12 inches in diameter, probably 10 to 12 feet long, at least 200 pounds. It took two men with two 18-inch bar chainsaws to remove that bough. I’ve cut wood my whole life, and that’s pretty big. I don’t know if they were milking the clock, but it took ’em two hours.”

After a broken-branch mishap that nearly fell on children and sent a teacher to the hospital for six days, still no talk of a different logo for the school.

Image by Andy Boyd

O’Shea maintains that the San Diego Unified School District had known about the hazard for years but failed to mitigate it.

“I’m angry about it, because this was preventable. I actually reported it to the school secretary on prior occasions after I’d witnessed large chunks of wood falling down into the employee parking lot. I don’t know where it went from there, but I did my part. I don’t know whether it’s on record or not; they can say I never come in or call it ‘hearsay’ if they want….

“We just met with with the OSHA investigator, who asked us, ‘What would you like to see done’? I told her, ‘I’d like to see every single tree that’s near any pedestrian path cut down.’ Take a look at where we live, Solana Beach, for example. When El Niño started, they took every eucalyptus tree on 101 and limbed them; same thing at Scripps Montessori where my son goes, as well as at a business across the street.”

Is limbing enough?

“Look what they did at Sandy Hook,” he says. “They tore the whole school down. A tree like that — that causes danger — take the tree down. And after the experts get it down, I’d be happy to volunteer to haul it away….

“Miramar Ranch tells me that they’ve spent $100,000 in tree maintenance during the past year, but I can’t see where they did it, because I was there last year, and I didn’t see any maintenance goin’ on. I’m sure it’s a matter of record somewhere, but I don’t see what they did. However, on the day my wife was hurt, the City of San Diego started cutting down trees in Balboa Park….

“As a retired Marine Corps officer, I will tell you, I am really disappointed with the leadership displayed by the school, by the district, and by the city and county of San Diego. This is totally preventable. It’s the same thing as leaving a piece of rail on the trolley tracks: you could see it coming. This is nothing new. I know that the city has limited resources, but people keep getting pay raises (my wife included), so I think the priorities are not where they need to be when it comes to the safety of our kids and educators. There’s easily 50 eucalyptus trees on that campus, and I still can’t believe those trees are there, because there’s still a danger to those kids who have to walk under them.”

William O’Shea declined to comment on the prospect of filing a lawsuit.

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