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Jack London State Historic Park
Photograph from Jack London State Historic Park

Jack London's Eucalyptus

Throughout Northern California stands of eucalyptus form windbreaks between pastures or grow in unchecked abandon in unlikely places.  On Beauty Ranch Jack's eucalyptus experiment is evident and lends a graceful backdrop to a sweep of hillside. Despite his careful research with scientists at University of California in Davis and diligent plans, the 100,000 eucalyptus seedlings London planted on land unsuitable for other crops was not usable for building, for paper, or for much of anything.

London believed the wood would be ideal for replacing the pilings of wharves of Oakland and San Francisco that were subject to a worm infestation.  The eucalyptus oil content of the wood was indigestible to the worm, and in this London was correct. However when the wood cured it twisted and split and made it unsuitable for building. This entrepeneurial failure did not deter London, he turned instead to breeding prize livestock.

In seeking a new cattle feed London partnered with Luther Burbank (see photo) to try the spineless cactus as an easy to grow, dry climate fodder.  However, the second generation of the cactus invariably grew spines and the experiment was halted.  A small plot of cactus is still present in the meadow at Beauty Ranch.

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