Thursday, October 24, 2013

Answer: Why is this tree here?

THE two things that struck me about this photograph (the third one in yesterday's post), was (1) that there was another tree just like the first one just a little behind and to the right.  See it?   and (2) that the tree seemed to be losing all of its bark.  Could that be a clue to its identity?  

My first search for the identity of the tree was: 

     [ California tree peeling bark ] 

Then I switched to Images and fairly quickly found that it was either a Madrone or a Eucalyptus.  A bit more poking around, and I came to the conclusion everyone else did.  It's a eucalyptus.  They were, as several people noted, originally imported from Australia and planted widely in California for many reasons (most of which did not pan out, although there is a good deal of controversy about this particular kind of tree). 

So this made me wonder not just why ONE eucalyptus was growing deep in the woods, but why there were TWO!!  

Time to switch to a Maps view and see if there's anything else going on. 

Like most of you, I dropped the lat/long (37.409425, -122.270441666667) into Maps, and was able to identify this as being in Wunderlich County Park.  

That's a useful clue in understanding the history of the place, but I was curious about what an aerial image would look like.  Look what I found by changing the KIND of Maps view! 

The picture above is really only the end tree in a LONG line of eucalyptus trees.  If this map is right, then the Bear Gulch Trail should intersect the eucalyptus trees at least twice more.  (So I went out there to check:  yes, it does.  I just had missed the other trees because of the details of how the trail runs and the trailside trees.)  

Intrigued by this, I zoomed out a bit more and found even MORE long lines of eucalyptus trees in the immediate neighborhood, all in the borders of the park.  Below I've marked the lines of trees that I see. We see these trees as lines because the eucalyptus are all taller than the surrounding oaks and pines and are a slightly different shade of green.     

We do know (from the History page of the Friends of Huddart and Wunderlich Parks) that Wunderlich Park was originally owned by John Coppinger, who received it as part of a large (14,000 acre) land grant in the 1840s.  Simon Jones purchased 1500 acres of the Coppinger land in 1872 and made many improvements (retaining walls, roads) using Chinese laborers.  Many of these walls and trails are still in use roughly 150 years later.  

Jones died in 1890 and the property was sold to James A Folger II in 1902.  Folger (he of the coffee business) transformed the land from a working farm into a recreation area.  Wagon trails and old skid roads became riding and carriage trails. 

The contractor Martin Wunderlich bought the property from the Folger's in 1956. And in 1974 he deeded 942 acres to San Mateo County for use as park and open space, which is how this former estate became a park I could run through. 

It's pretty clear then, that these trees are there to line the trails and roads of the former estate (now park).  This is a fairly common thing to do with eucalyptus trees in California.  Below I've included two images of eucalyptus along the road, and marking the boundary of a property line.  They're pretty easy to spot from the Maps view..... 

Search lesson:  It's sometimes incredibly useful to check other views of the same data (as I did here by looking not just at the Maps view, but also at the aerial imagery view.  You never quite know what other data is there for the observation! 

Search on! 


  1. While reading the answer I started wondering about the images where Dr. Russell had drawn the lines for the tree lines. I wondered if they were made in Maps Engine Lite. So I headed over see if I could re-create it. Realized that I couldn't create dotted lines with arrows. I also am having trouble making out all the tree lines in his image. If anyone wants to give try to help recreate his image, go to this link (I believe I have the sharing rights set so anyone with the link can edit). The line tool is directly below the search box.

    Good challenge with a great answer because I learned something new
    about looking at maps for research.

    1. Fred - perhaps Dan put the map image in a GooDoc and then drew‽?
      one possible way
      ⇠⇢ no doubt, there are multiple ways - he does have that nice little spatial shading shadow format on the map images. Hazelnut Farm would have been something to see in its day. Surprised Dan didn't mention any horse encounters since Wunderlich appears popular with the equestrian crowd and saw the abundance of road apples mentioned multiple times on the trail sites.

    2. remmij - What a great tutorial site! Thanks for sharing that.

    3. Fred, another way to do the Map is creating your maps. In Answer: When will the sun hit the beach? Dr. Russell tell us how he did that.

      Another tutorial: Creating Maps Using Custom Maps for Google Maps

      You just need to go to the Classic Maps. Maybe there is a new way to do these maps in the new Google Maps.

    4. If you want to do an online course with Google here's a link-
      You now may find it quite basic but I really enjoyed doing this course. I spent a few hours and it gave me a good foundation.

    5. Actually, for the blog, I just took a screen shot and drew on top of it with my illustration app. I should've made a map (just didn't for this particular case, although I've made plenty of maps in my time).

  2. Dr. Russell, first congratulations for the article in Lifehacker. It is wonderful to know more about you. Thanks Fred for sharing the article on G+

    [[ California tree peeling bark ] was something I didn´t think about and it is excellent. When I saw the tree I had an idea about what it could be, because in house, we have camphor tree and it is very similar.

    Your findings about the lines of eucalyptus trees are just Woow! I'm sure only few people could find and tell about those lines. Thanks for teaching us about them.