O.C. Answer Man: Why does Orange County have so many eucalyptus trees?

A: In 1895, state forester Abbot Kinney wrote a book extolling the fast-growing tree’s commercial potential.

(Photo by Noel Habgood/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

He claimed, incorrectly, that eucalyptus wood was good for construction, railroad ties, and cheap fuel, and that the tree’s oil cured a host of health problems. This, combined with a hardwood shortage, led to a flood of eucalyptus get-rich-quick ventures in the early 1900s. One local example was El Toro pioneer Dwight Whiting, who planted 960 acres in eucalyptus, putting the forest in today’s “Lake Forest.” By the mid-1910s, it was clear that eucalyptus wasn’t commercially viable. But the trees added shade and beauty to a largely treeless region and made fine windbreaks for citrus groves. Many rows of old eucalyptus trees still mark the boundaries of former orange groves. http://gty.im/161448034

Chris Jepsen is the Answer Man. Have a question? Send it to cjepsen@socal.rr.com.

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