Eucalyptus, native to Australia, was studied by French and English botanists who explored the Pacific at the end of the 18th century. The first eucalyptus grown in England was brought in 1774 on James Cook's second voyage. Due to their novelty, they were quickly cultivated in European botanical gardens.
In Portugal, the first eucalyptus trees were cultivated in the mid-19th century. At the end of this century, they were already planted on a certain scale for various purposes, such as wood. The area occupied by this tree grew sharply during the 20th century, and today, Portugal is one of the countries with the highest percentage of its forest area covered by this tree. The main uses are wood and papermaking.
Large areas of eucalyptus trees burn easily, generating large and uncontrollable forest fires, which have been a constant in recent years in Portugal. Regarding landscape and aesthetics, eucalyptus forests are poor and desolate due to the reduced diversity of plants and animals that inhabit them, imparting a monotonous character to the scenario, completely grey-green. On the contrary, isolated eucalyptus trees of a certain size can enrich a landscape due to the shape of the crown, the colour of the leaves and the trunk.
This was the feeling I had a few years ago when I observed these two trees on the edge of the Mira lagoon. At the time, I carried with me only a small point-and-shoot camera, so the image quality was not high, but I believe it is acceptable for the message it intends to convey.
As usual, it was pretty windy on the Portuguese occidental coast, so the two eucalyptus trees were bent to one side. The trees were of a certain size, but they were not necessarily old because they grow fast indeed, being close to the water (eucalyptus trees like water; they were once used to dry out swamps).
They have many dry branches, perhaps because they don't like the sea air you can feel in Mira, which is very close to the sea. Unlike the large eucalyptus forests, which are sad panoramas with no variety of colours, the completely flat landscape of the Mira region, somewhat monotonous, was enriched by the presence of these two large trees waving in the strong and persistent north wind. It reminded me that there are no good or bad plants; they all have their place in nature. However, man should not abuse nature or plants, creating completely artificial landscapes and ecosystems, such as large unmanaged eucalyptus forests outside their native place of origin. The results are in sight...
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor