Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wednesday Search Challenge (10/23/13): Why is this tree here?

  THE other day I was running through a local open space preserve, zipping through a mixed pine / oak woodland at a steady pace, enjoying the sunlight dappling through the trees. 

This is a wonderful place to run.  The trails go deep into the local forest that blanket the hills to the west of Silicon Valley; they pass from one kind of local ecosystem to another.  If you run here, you can expect to pass through groves of redwoods, stands of Douglas fir, live oaks, and even chaparral with manzanitas and chamise.  

But at one point I saw something SO unexpected that I stopped and took a couple of photographs.

Here's one of those pictures.  See that tree on the right? 

It's SO out-of-place, so unlike all of the trees around it that I literally stopped dead in my tracks to take this photos. 

Here's a close-up of the tree.  As you can see, it's not like anything else nearby.  

The questions for today are: 

1.  What kind of tree is that?  
2.  What's it doing here, deep in the forest?
     (More specifically, can you figure out WHY it's here?)  

I know this seems like another of Dan's-impossible-questions, but I believe you can figure all of this out.  

It will require a bit of out-of-the-normal search thinking. 

(I'll save you the step of searching for the metadata of the trees.  It's at 37.409425, -122.270441666667 )  

Can we do it?  

Search on!  


  1. You want responses here, or would that spoil the fun?

  2. Sequoia sempervirans - part of a fairy ring?
    "Timber played a big part in the history of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Redwood trees were the primary crop. There are many large redwood "fairy rings" along the trail - clusters of clonal redwoods that have grown up around a logged or naturally deceased mother tree. Sequoia sempervirens - "ever green" and amazing trees.*"

    redwood trail
    bear gulch
    *an occasional Fred pastime

  3. Since the comments are moderated, I don't guess this will be a spoiler. Eucalyptus, introduced to the area in the gold-rush era as a renewable lumber resource with disappointing results.

  4. @Rusty -- that's right. The comments here are for collective thinking about how to solve the challenge. But there's much more to the story! Good start, though.

  5. I started searching by examining the exif data for all 3 pictures. No luck. Duh! I missed your clue with the long/lat. that looks like it was 2pt font size on my laptop. :-)

    Tried [ california forest occasional large tree ] just see if something lucky would pop up. Nope.

    Put your coordinates into Google Maps to see that you were in Wunderlich County Park. Query [wunderlich county park trees ] and found this nice article from the Bay Area Hiker.  I started a series of queries for different trees mentioned in the article [ giant manzanita tree bark ] [ tansoak bark ] ... Ended up searching [ california large tree with peeling bark ] and see an article Who Eucalyptized Southern California? Really interesting story links to supporting books. I got lost exploring it all. Head back to the Bay Area Hiker article and Command+F for [eucalyptus] to find it is one of the trees in Wunderlich. I also began reading Eucalyptus by Abbot Kinney written in 1895.

    One last search [ eucalyptus trees wunderlich county park ] did not yield anything else helpful.

    1. Eucalyptus Tree

    2. Imported and planted en masse in a eucalyptus boom that went bust.

  6. OK, I don't consider myself a particularly methodical searcher but have never analyzed or organized my approach. I first did guess searches of some tree species that I thought were smooth barked and that didn't get far. Then I just searched terms like "smooth barked trees" and check the images and descriptions for what seemed like the closest matches. Wikipedia figured prominently in the results that were most helpful and this paragraph was what my guess was based on:
    It also seemed to be a perfect match to the provided geodata.

  7. Good day, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers


    [37.409425, -122.270441666667] in maps to find

    Wunderlich Park.

    [Wunderlich Park tree ]
    Eucalyptus trees?

    Your third image in Google images
    Found image with a tree like yours and "A century ago the land was owned by James Folger,
    the founder of Folger's Coffee

    [ wunderlich park historical tree intext:eucalyptus] more about history of Folger Ranch

    [eucalyptus wunderlich] in Google Books
    Best Easy Day Hikes San Francisco Peninsula.

    Found. "...the Presido Forest, a massive planting from the 1890s that introduced eucalyptus, Monterey Pine and Monterey cypress, completely transforming the landscape"

    ["bear gulch trail" eucalyptus] in books

    Peninsula Trails: Hiking and Biking Trails on the San Francisco Peninsula

    [wunderlich park eucalyptus origins] to find


    What kind of tree is that?

    What's it doing here, deep in the forest?
    From a: "Wunderlich Park has a significant area of non-native vegetation, dating back to its origin as a farm and private garden". This was built by Simon Jones in 1872

    Out of topic.

    Rooting out riches: There's gold in them thar eucalyptus trees!

  8. the first couple of pics threw me, but I should have known it wouldn't be soooo obvious… thought eucalyptus with the last pic, but didn't seem to be enough peeling bark/ground litter/fire fuel and it didn't smell like cough drops when I used my "iSmellSumthun" app —;) - as a replacement tree in clearcut/harvested areas (in part by the State of California, itself) & trying to service the RR's need for ties, seems to explain their presence - like everything else, seems to be a back and forth on whether and/or how they should be incorporated into the indigenous plant/animal system…
    pre-Euc - Charles Brown, Mountain Home Ranch/Redwoods:
    …have to download that "knowThyBark" app - $3.99 @ ayeToons

  9. 700 varieties… a little tale from south of you - San Diego area - Rancho Sante Fe -
    Eucs in the Fe
    Rancho San Dieguito
    wikiEuc, see plantation species, Oakland Hills firestorm
    a small supplemental to Ramón's find:
    NGS-annoying sign in

  10. I think it's a eucalyptus tree. I googled the coordinates you gave and found it to be Wunderlich County Park. Then I googled [Wunderlich County Park barkless tree] and it brought me to a Yelp site that listed the kinds of trees in the park. It turns out the barkless part was just unnecessary noise. It seemed likely to me that, of the trees listed on the Yelp site, the tree in your picture was either a eucalyptus or a cypress, so I searched for images of both and the eucalyptus image more closely resembled the tree in your picture. Then I googled [Wunderlich County Park eucalyptus] which bought me to a site that mentioned that there had been a campaign to plant the trees. So I googled [California plant eucalyptus] which brought me to a Santa Barbara Independent newspaper article entitled "How the Eucalyptus Came to California " The article states that the trees were brought to California to satisfy the need for timber for buildings fueled by the Gold Rush.

  11. Replies
    1. thanks for the point to the profile - seems DrD. is the spartan reSearcher (must be one of those green droidy things in a unseen corner of the cubicle space - there is a Goo mandate for color isn't there?
      was wondering John L. or John R. at CMU?(guessing "R", but both seem to fit the description.)
      was surprised by the E.S. pick… (an E.S. alternate, SW
      DW, timely
      JF, China insight is valuable
      Dan, know you aren't soliciting reading suggestions, but from your "listen to" comment, this might appeal:
      D. Sedaris
      anyway, nice little interview/vignette - glad chris pointed it out.

  12. Fantastic chris thank you so much for sharing.

  13. I'm not sure on my solution here, but wanted to post anyway. My best guess is that it's a Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus). I searched for california trees with peeling bark and browsed a bit. Ended up searching for "western red cedar wunderlich county park" and found this link.
    After looking more carefully, I found the blue gum designation in the park. Picture looks right and is kind of an odd tree in N. California. They planted the Blue Gum after the redwoods had been cut down.

    I spent most of the day on/off putzing on this one, and I'm still not satisfied with the answer, but probably took about an hour combined.

    Also, nice work on your lifehacker "this is how I work" article. Enjoyed the low-tech vibe you put out - curious and intriguing from someone in your position.

  14. Location from coordinates [Google Maps] is Wunderlich County Park. This park falls under the jurisdiction of San Mateo County. (see link @1).

    San Mateo Natural Resource Management provides a list of the trees in Wunderlich County Park
    (see link @2)which is a credible source. While unsophiscated I used a process of elimination [Query Image Search] to determine which tree fit the images provided. The Eucalyptus Globulus (Tasmanian Blue Gum) was my final selection.

    And now to answer why it’s located there. I found a few articles providing the history of the Eucalyptus in California. (Link @3). “The eucalyptus could also transform Southern California's treeless landscape in almost an instant”. (Link @4). However, It turns out the Eucalyptus has had mixed reviews. Initially it was considered a failure when first planted as a hardwood crop because of poor quality wood. In more recent years articles indicate quite a controversy about these “fire-loving” trees. Reading about the negative aspects I wondered why would these trees be kept. I discovered that the tree was considered an invasive plant (Link @5) and (LInk@6). I hoped to find an explanation.
    Then there are points of view from “tree-hugging groups” protecting the trees and the US government is in fact embracing the benefits of the Eucalyptus. (Link@7).
    I did think I could find a database of inventory of these trees since they are designated invasive. The maps showing this as an invasive plant but my results were vague. So is California protecting a resource or managing an invasive tree. The US Federal government may not see it the same way. Interesting.

    @1 -

    @2 -






  15. Great article; I am ready for my interview - my home office looks very similar !

    I thought when I saw the pix that we were looking at eucalyptus so [california eucalyptus] produces many items saying millions of them have been planted since about 1850 just as everyone else found. checked IMAGES for same. Satisfied that this is correct. But WHY that particular tree is there for what particular reason I had not time to work over due a day out boating about. The fog had lifted !


  16. I saw the hint at the bottom of your challenge and wanted to verify. I opened the file and went to Properties (which is where I thought the data would be stored) but it was not there and instead it showed me where the picture was stored on the net. I saved it locally and the data was not there either. I loaded Picasa to edit and the metadata was not there either. Is there a location/method I am missing or was this "scrubbed" and that is why you appended it?