Eucalyptus is an introduced presence that looms over and defines many regions of California , rows of them providing windbreaks in agricultural areas and lining highways . Many consider them to be 'weed trees' , with their year round leaf-drop and reputation for flammability-a notable example of the latter being the devastating Oakland Hills fire of 1991 . Debates abound over the wisdom or foolishness of their presence here-Eucs are second only to Redwood in the arena of controversial trees in our fair state.
I admit that I love them. I love their looks, I love the fragrance-they are the most significant tree of my childhood and the first tree I ever planted as a homeowner. Like a wayward and beloved friend I forgive them over and over for their defects. Ironically I don't currently own one, and in all likelihood I never will-they are far too large for my tiny lot. But I can step outside and see them along the river to the east,and on the hillside to the south. At Christmastime I roam parking lots and the perimeter of vineyards with the pruners collecting their greenery for the mantle, vases and wreaths. I take photos, and I look forward to road trips that will take me through favorite groves. Here are a few from the collection of specimen trees at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, and from the Carneros wine growing region of the Napa Valley.