The Plant Man

Steve Kawaratani

Defined by Its Trees

 “I’m back in the saddle again”

–Gene Autry


I believe it was the scent of the Eucalyptus that imprinted one of my earliest associations of well-being.  Growing up as a fairly well behaved but active boy in Laguna, it was my (mis)fortune to have the new Presbyterian minister move next door to our family home.


Subsequent Sunday mornings found me freshly scrubbed and appropriately dressed for church services, rather than enjoying a little bare-legged fun.  The summer of 1958, failing to impress my father, Pete, with my broom sweeping of the nursery grounds (what was he expecting for .25¢ per hour?), I found myself being shipped to vacation Bible school for a two-week sentence.


It was there, at the Girl Scout camp in Aliso Canyon, that I inhaled my first waft of fresh and clean fragrance from a stand of old Eucalyptuses.  I was suffering from childhood allergies at the time, and I am convinced the medicinal qualities of the Eucalyptus helped calm my symptoms.


Dad was so impressed by my increased vigor, that he donated and planted a hedgerow of Eucalyptus Globulus, also called blue gum, at the Aliso Elementary School.  Vestiges of the trees can still be seen on the western edge of what is now Fred Lang Park.


For those of us who reside in Laguna, the urban forest Eucalyptus can create – perhaps define – an entire neighborhood, both positively and negatively.


The City Council majority and city staff did not get it wrong when they supported neighborhood safety in Bluebird Canyon with the removal of five supposedly problematic Eucalyptus trees identified by SoCal Edison.  It is their primary duty to promote public health and safety based on Laguna’s history with fire and the litigious environment that exists everywhere.


Verna Rollinger and SoCal Edison (finally) got it right by suggesting that an arborist be consulted to consider options prior to removal of the Eucalyptus trees.


I don’t believe that anyone can imagine Bluebird Canyon bereft of any of its Eucalyptus trees without good reason.  Well, maybe there are a few individuals…


The richness that the original trees and their descendants provide is one of the defining characteristics of the neighborhood.  I hope all concerned take the time to soak in a bath infused with Eucalyptus oil and ponder the value of those trees.  It really helps one to think clearly and speak kindly. See you next time.



Steve Kawaratani is a 60 year resident of Laguna Beach.  He can be contacted at 949.494.5141 or [email protected].


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