(This is part of a series, Blogging from A to Z April 2014 Challenge. My theme for the challenge is Quintessential San Diego from A to Z, focusing on those things that are  typical, or perfect, or classic examples of San Diego life. Today is E.)

Yesterday we took our grandkiddos to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. I knew this Eucalyptus post was coming up, so I wanted to get some pictures of eucalyptus trees while we were there. Look at this! How perfect is that? Two Elephants in front of some huge Eucalyptus trees.

Elephants and Eucalyptus, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

What do Eucalyptus trees have to do with San Diego, you wonder? They are native to Australia, not the U.S. But they are ubiquitous here. (To which my husband would reply, And they are everywhere, too.) There is a funny little reason why.

Tall Eucalyptus Grove in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

In the 1800’s eucalyptus were seen as the answer to almost everything. Their leaves were believed to prevent malaria. The oil was believed to cure diphtheria. The long straight wood was thought to be perfect for building ships, and for making railway ties for the railroads being built across the country. But too soon, wooden ships were replaced with metal ones. And eucalyptus was found to split, and not be suitable for railroad ties.

UCSD Eucalyptus Grove with Art Installation —
“Two Running Violet V Forms”

In the meantime, though, various San Diego businessmen planted 1000’s of acres with multi-millions of trees. Groves can still be seen in the Scripps Ranch area, Rancho Santa Fe, and UCSD.

Now, though many 19th century beliefs about the benefits of eucalyptus have gone by the way, we still love our menthol-eucalyptus drops for relieving cold symptoms. And the beautiful trees, in myriads of varieties, grace every area of the county.

Elephants and Eucalyptus at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Source for Eucalyptus history in San Diego: 

“San Diego’s Eucalyptus Bubble,” San Diego History Center