They loomed tall like giants in the front half of the property, standing guard as you came down the driveway. The breeze causing the rustling of the leaves to be heard. Their beauty apparent but they showed the signs of battle, branches missing and some broken. O those Eucalyptus trees. Yes, they are so inspiring that Ferdinand von Mueller, a botanist wrote 10 volumes about the tree. In 1868 he indicated the tree could be used for erosion control. The United States Soil Conservation Service understood his concept. They offered trees to be planted as windbreaks in order to help prevent another 1930’s Dust Bowl. One type of tree used was the Eucalyptus tree. In 1946 Donald Waddell took up their offer and planted windbreaks on his ranch. This was the introduction of Eucalyptus trees into the area known today as Waddell, AZ.
The first written record of the discovery of Eucalyptus tree was in 1642 by Abel Tasman. He was looking for new trading lands and a shorter trade route to Chile for the Dutch East India Company when he found new land in 1642 which he named Van Diemen’s Land. In case you’re wondering the area is known today as the island of Tasmania. While the island only contains 29 of the more than 700 eucalypt species, it has a special spot in the history and science books since this is where the tree was discovered.
Eucalyptus trees are native only to Australia and surrounding islands to the north. The trees have shallow, spreading root system which has done well in the harsh growing conditions in Australia. The Australian soil is leached of nutrients which causes the tree to stay smaller, than in the United States. In addition the soil condition forces their roots to dive deep in order to survive.
In the United States soil conditions tend to be much richer and not as depleted so the trees grow taller and the roots stay shallow since they are not forced to go deep to survive. The research shows that 90% of a cultivated eucalyptus’ root system is found in the top 12 inches of the soil. So when the rain soaks the ground and the strong winds blow the tree will easily topple over especially with the foliage on the tree acting as a sail.
The Eucalyptus tree’s lateral roots can spread up to 100 feet. In search of water the lateral roots grow into ditches, main water lines, sprinkler systems, and septic tanks, cracking and damaging them as they go. They can lift sidewalks, damage curbs and gutters as they spread. In fact they can even damage a home’s foundation especially when planted to close to the house.
While the Eucalyptus is a beautiful tree and many uses, they managed to get into our septic tank and drain field. Yes, one tree was only 31 feet from the septic tank and 27 feet from the drain field. So within a few weeks of being on the farm, the decision was made to say farewell to our beautiful tall Eucalyptus trees for the good of the micro-farm even though it drastically changed the microclimate and shade patterns on the property.