The Saligna eucalyptus, also called the Sydney Blue Gum, was finally chosen to replace the Tasmanian Blue Gum eucalyptuses that were removed the summer of 2007 from Kapiolani Road. The decision came after much debate and the collaborative work of faculty, students, staff, and consultants.
According to Campus Architect Karen Fiene, the new species of eucalyptus is less expansive than Cyrus Mills’ original choice, requires less trimming, and is not prone to shedding. “We won’t have to prune as often because this species isn’t as leggy,” she said.
The new species of eucalyptus is also expected to live longer, hopefully for several hundred years, according to Karen Maggio, associate vice president of Campus Facilities and Building Maintenance. She is leaving Mills at the end of the month.
Although the Sydney Blue Gum is a non-native tree, its planting will honor the former eucalyptus trees which once stood in the same place.
“After all the information, both for and against,” said Maggio, “it was decided that this was the best place to plant a non-native species for its historical significance.”
To honor Cyrus Mills’ vision, the new Sydney eucalyptuses are being grown from seed, just as he grew the original Tasmanian Blue Gums. Currently, there are three hundred plants growing in Mills’ botanical garden, according to Maggio.
Christina McWhorter, who is the Botanical Garden and Greenhouse coordinator, is in charge of the seedlings. “They’re doing very well. I just transplanted them from their initial pots. Right now they’re about a foot tall,” she said.
Maggio said Mills might even keep a “baby book” for the seedlings “with a leaf from a eucalyptus tree instead of a lock of hair” for commemoration of the importance of the growth of these trees.
The goal for planting the new eucalyptuses, according to McWhorter, is late fall to early winter of next year. “It depends on when the new Graduate School of Business is finished,” she said. According to Maggio, the best 100 plants will be chosen and a ceremony will be held for their replanting. At this point the trees will hopefully be around 5-6 feet tall.
The new Sydney eucalyptuses will be placed along Bryant’s Walk just as their predecessors were, “in a double row with a path down the middle,” said Maggio. By keeping the same configuration, the new path will honor the original walk and the integrity of Mills tradition.
For those concerned about further tree cuttings, “tree maintenance is always an issue,” said Maggio. Several non-native trees near Leona Creek were removed this past summer for an ongoing creek restoration project. “We’re trying to remove more invasive species to replace with native plants,” she said.
The original debate over the removal of the Bryant’s Walk eucalyptus trees highlights how the Mills community is continually conflicted between issues of tradition and progressivism.
Maggio said even McWhorter, a “pro-native” in Maggio’s words, can’t help being fond of the Botanical Garden’s new eucalyptus seedlings, which can currently be visited on the bench next to the greenhouse in the Botanical Garden.