Blue Gum Hill


A favorite walk for years, from our place in the North Berkeley flatlands, up Vine Street, Vine Walk, La Loma Steps, to Buena Vista Avenue. That last street winds up a hill full of stands of immense eucalyptus trees (also known as blue gums in their native Australia; they’re looming in the fog in the shot above) . When I say immense, I”m guessing some are pushing 150 feet in height 15 feet in girth at their base. They’re in many cases unwanted/ I recently came across a neighborhood flyer on a street in the hills that was appealing to neighbors to get together and pay for a “once in a generation” chance to cut down some view-blocking eucalyptus trees; the opportunity came up because the house in the yard of which the trees stood had recently changed hands, and the owner was willing to have the trees felled as long as he could split the expense. The eucalyptus also make locals nervous because when they burn, they burn fiercely. There’s no stopping a fire that’s burning through the crown of a stand of these trees. I remember hearing occasional sharp reports during the Oakland Hills fire of 1991 and thinking they were gas tanks exploding only to be told by an Australian spectator that it was blue gums. Absent fire–and today is anything but fire weather–they’re beautiful.