Eucalyptus globulus – The Bruce-Willis-Tree in Portugal


The actor Bruce Willis was well known in the 90s for his Die Hard movie series, in which he did not die at all despite all odds. He became the perfect example of an indestructible type of his species.

In the past, the word Eucalyptus used to remind me to menthol candy. Since my stay in Brazil, I know that the fast-growing tree is used extensively in forestry to extract pulp for the paper industry and charcoal for ore smelting. If you travel by car through the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, you will inevitably cross huge eucalyptus plantations.

The Tasmanian bluegum or Eucalyptus globulus from Tasmania and southern Australia has also spread in Europe. Large plantations can be found in northwestern Spain and Portugal. The tree species became a contentious issue in Portugal after two big fires in 2017, in which mainly eucalyptus plantations have burned. The fact that this tree increases the risk of fire is due to its specific properties: its deep roots lower the groundwater, and the oil it develops is highly flammable.

Nevertheless, the eucalyptus loves the fire. Rhizomes and seeds survive the flames, which, at the same time, cause the destruction of parasites. The seed pods of some species even need the fire to break open. After a fire, the eucalyptus recovers faster than other plants and can therefore spread more efficiently.

The pictures below show how eucalyptus trees and sea pines, which were the most important tree species in Portuguese forestry before the introduction of eucalyptus, developed after a fire that occurred just about a year ago. While the sea pines have died, new shoots from the trunk of the eucalyptus are sprouting and the forest floor is covered with new eucalyptus trees.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *