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The eucalyptus trees of Phoenix, Arizona


I like trees. I grew up in Minneapolis, and have lived in Phoenix and Southern California all of my adult life, and I just feel better around trees. And one of my favorite types of trees is eucalyptus.

Eucalyptus trees have been in Phoenix since territorial times. They're native to Australia, and come in a lot of varieties. The ones that most people recognize are the ones in the photo up there, which are at the Arizona Canal at 7th Street and Northern. And they get HUGE! And not only do they get huge, their branches are weak, and it doesn't take much for them to snap off a branch, so they're best planted well away from your house. They're great as windbreaks, and parks, but I can't recommend planting them if you have a tiny suburban lot like I do. In fact, the idiots who built my neighborhood planted two (2!) eucalyptus trees in the tiny "post office stamp"-sized spaces in front of each house, and after about ten years they were WAY too big for the space and had to be taken out.

I'm still learning the different types of eucalyptus trees, and many of them don't look enough like a typical eucalyptus tree that I can even recognize them. When I'm out walking around, I test if it's eucalyptus by taking a leaf, breaking it, and smelling it. There is a distinctive smell to eucalyptus! In fact, I have even mailed eucalyptus leaves to a friend in Minneapolis just because they like they smell. I find it wonderful.

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If you grew up in Phoenix, or Australia, you probably aren't very impressed by eucalyptus trees. As a kid from Minnesota I was absolutely blown away. These are trees that shed their bark! I would write back home and tell people about them, and of course they had no idea what I was talking about. I just found them amazing, and I still do.

I like trees, but having eucalyptus trees close to my house was not good, so with the help of a neighbor of mine, I removed them. It was quite a job! And now I keep "my" eucalyptus trees over at the college, or along the canals. They're beautiful, and exotic, but they're fragile, and I sleep better knowing that a branch isn't going to suddenly break and fall on my roof!

The next time you're out "urban hiking" take a break and walk over to a tree. Even if it doesn't really look like a eucalyptus, it may be. It's part of what makes Phoenix an amazing place to me, and I'm glad that they're around.