Our Vanishing Hedgerows
A title like "Our Vanishing Hedgerows" seems more appropriate for the UK, where hedgerows once enclosed farmed land and provided valuable habitat for native wildlife. Here in Southern California, once extensive farmland, our own form of hedgerow was made up exclusively of Eucalyptus globulus. It enclosed citrus orchards, providing protection for the valuable crop from the roaring Santa Ana winds of autumn.
Those long rows of Eucs were planted in Southern California roughly from the late nineteenth century through the early 50's. The last of them, now 70 or so years old, are the legacy of a century and a half of successful agriculture. When suburban housing became the dominant crop of the land, a few rows were left because the developer did not want to go to the expense of cutting them down, or perhaps thought they were nice trees.
They came suddenly back into attention recently when one large tree suddenly fell over, crushing and killing a young woman innocently driving down the road on a lunchtime errand. Sad story.
There are legacy rows in our neighborhood. The one closest is nearly gone, just a dozen or so of them left, massive and mutated by decades of bad pruning. They all lean to the southwest due to the powerful northeast winds of autumn. One massive tree fell in the park a couple of years ago, thankfully not killing anyone but leaving an impressive ditch in the park lawn.
Beyond general loathing for Eucs within falling distance of my house, it did not occur to me until now that Eucrows are a vanishing remnent of California history, an indelible feature of a certain period, and will soon be gone. Hate them or not, it's time to pay them a little attention before they go. Their journey here in California is one of transformation from an indelible landmark of a place to a random killer, to a pile of firewood.
Eucrows have a grand magnificence, but are a burden to the property owner. Another local row has growing gaps--these three are spray-painted with the arborist's deathmark, and I assume will soon be cut down. Perhaps the property owner doesn't want the house smashed. Picky.
Californians of the pre-WW II era surely had a different view of them. They were exotic imports from Australia, a place people were never going to visit--our near-universal ability to be world travellers is a recent development, and we hardly realize what a big change that is. We do not much remember a time when world travel was a dream, and reading and hearing about exotic travelers adventures a major form of entertainment. Now we simply check Expedia for a flight. We are all too jaded: this summer a bored UCLA college student in search of adventure went to Libya to check out the revolution for his vacation. Compared to that, the idea of seeing an exotic tree, having it planted nearby--is too quaint to be imagined.
The falling Euc's victim was a world traveler herself--she came to the US from Korea as a child violin virtuoso and attended Julliard. She didn't get that storied concert career--how many Julliard graduates do--but apparently she took it in stride and moved on. Then much promise, talent, joy, and zest for life ended up smashed by a tree at lunchtime. Modern life is tragically, mind-bogglingly strange.