Northern California is one of the most beautiful regions in the world in my opinion. It has such a wonderful mix of culture, world-class food, and some of the most awe-inspiring nature.
When I first moved to the Napa area of Northern California, I was engulfed in the scent of eucalyptus. Coming from Utah, I had never really seen or recognized a eucalyptus tree, but I knew the scent. I remember my mom rubbing eucalyptus under my nose or on my chest when I felt congested, and the immediate comfort I felt from eucalyptus was unforgettable.
Interestingly enough, it turns out eucalyptus is not even native to California. In the early 1800s, much of the California forests had been deforested, and it would take years for the tree to regrow. But Australia had an interesting solution: to plant trees that grow quickly such as eucalyptus trees.
It was also believed that eucalyptus could be used for materials such as wood, honey and maybe even fuel. Settlers in California in the mid-1860s began planting these trees. The government even gave landowners about one dollar for each tree they planted, a huge incentive at the time. This eventually resulted in whole forests of eucalyptus in the area.
Unfortunately, eucalyptus trees were not quite as beneficial as the people of California hoped. They were not strong enough to create solid furniture. They actually helped the fire spread instead of preventing it. And many settlers learned that eucalyptus is actually a very toxic material if absorbed directly or in large amounts.
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While eucalyptus is not planted as much in California as it once was, it is still found all over the Bay Area. One of my favorite drives is from San Francisco into the Carmel/Monterey Bay area. And one of the parts I love most is driving through the eucalyptus groves because they are beautiful and fragrant.
Another area in San Francisco that features the eucalyptus tree is the Mount Sutro forest. The Mount Sutro Forest is a small remnant of an 1100-acre eucalyptus forest that is now just 80 acres, located right in San Francisco. I remember walking into the forest not believing that one of the most modern cities in the world was right outside.
Some of the eucalyptus trees in Mount Sutro are 200-feet tall, which is unbelievable considering some of the tallest redwoods in the area are just barely taller than this. The Mount Sutro Forest is also a birdwatcher’s dream. Over 45 species of birds visit the forest. Next time you visit San Francisco, make sure to check out the forest and even try a hike or two.
Today, eucalyptus is used medicinally and provides a range of health benefits. Whenever I think about my years in Northern California, I cannot help but picture driving into wine country and seeing the majestic site of eucalyptus trees. To most of us, these trees have inhabited California for so long they seem native. And truly, I cannot imagine Northern California without them, nor remember it without remembering the scent of eucalyptus.
We hope you enjoyed this personal account by a fellow essential oil lover, Michael O. Check out more Cityscape stories here!