Eucalyptus trees were imported to California in the 1850s after Australian gold miners sung their praises as a fast growing, super strong building material.
Unfortunately, while the trees do grow quickly, the wood is not viable commercially until the trees mature (the wood brought by the Australians was cut from virgin forests, and presumably was much older), and unless treated correctly after harvesting, it rapidly grows brittle and cracks easily.
This lead to many a disappointed entrepreneur, but the eucalyptus did thrive in one capacity in Northern California. When planted in long rows, it serves as an excellent windbreak for crops, especially grape vines. Planted four feet apart in staggered rows, their flexible trunks direct wind up, and in some areas their extensive use has changed local climates, turning sandy stretches into viable agricultural fields. A strategically planted eucalyptus windbreak can reduce a home’s energy needs by as much as 30%.
Some residents view the proliferation of eucalyptus as a blight, and a reminder of the many get-rich-quick plots of California’s past, but there’s no denying that their leathery trunks, long silver-grey leaves, and slightly medicinal scent have become hallmarks of the region.