Its Nativity.—When Discovered, and by Whom.—When Introduced into France.—Its Medicinal Qualities, and by Whom Discovered. —Its Antiseptic Properties.—The Healthful Results of its Planting in Malarial Districts. — Its Tour of Travel and Introduction into America.—Eucalyptus - planting by the Trappist Monks, and Expected Results.—Record of the Eucalyptus as a Disinfectant.—Instanced Results of its Antiseptic and Disinfecting Properties.—Eucalyptus-planting in New Orleans, and Healthful Results.—The Eucalyptus as a Preventive against Yellow and Jungle Fever, and Efforts for its Introduction into India.—Experience of English Tree-growers in Raising the Eucalyptus.—Its Destined Future.—Climate Best Suited to its Growth.—Its Successful Raising on the Pacific Coast.—Experiments on the Virtues of the Eucalyptus and Results in Detail.—Its Odorous Properties.—Its Other Uses.—Eucalyptus-planting in California, and Probable Returns.—An Opinion in Regard to the Southern and Southwestern States.
Among his other great enterprises, Garibaldi, the great Italian hero, engaged in planting the eucalyptus, or blue gum-tree, about Rome, to prevent the malarial fever with which the inhabitants of that city were afflicted. As this tree is little known in our country, some account of it may not be uninteresting.
According to the best authorities it is an Australian production, and was first discovered by the French scientist La Nillardiere, who visited Van Dieman's Land in 1792. It was brought into the south of France about the beginning of the present century, and noble specimens of it are now growing in the public gardens of Nice, Cannes, Hyeres, and Algiers. Its medicinal qualities did not, however, become known until about thirty years ago. The Spaniards first discovered that it was a preventive of fever, and the colonists of Tasmania used its leaves for a number of purposes. It was not until 1860 that its full power became known; and, as a hygienic measure, it was introduced into the Spanish realm as an antiseptic. The people of Valentia were suffering from malarial fever. Eucalyptus - trees were planted about the city, and a marked improvement in the healthfulness of the locality followed. So popular did it become that the trees had to be guarded, the inhabitants stealing the leaves every opportunity they had to make decoctions to drink. The Spaniards named the eucalyptus the fever-tree, and soon after it was introduced into Algeria. It next travelled to the Cape of Good Hope, Corsica, Sicily, South America, and California.
Garibaldi's attempt to introduce it into Rome was not entirely new; many years ago a few dozen specimens were planted about the walk, and although nearly all the trees lived, but few of them were vigorous. After a trial of many years in southern France it has failed to become hardy or suck up and destroy the poisonous vapors of the swamps in which it was planted.
The Trappist monks of the Tre Fontane set out large plantations of eucalyptus-trees, and have tended them with the utmost care. This may fairly be looked upon as a decisive experiment. The place known as Tre Fontane, or Three Fountains, lies some miles south of Rome, and is the seat of a magnificent monastery. Its climate, once healthy, in consequence of the destruction of all the timber in the vicinity has become so deadly that, notwithstanding its splendid buildings, rich mosaics, marbles, and frescoes, the place is wholly deserted during the summer months. To live there in June, July, and August is said to be almost certain death.
The record of the eucalyptus-tree as an antiseptic and disinfectant is excellent. The districts in which it is indigenous are healthy, and those into which it has been introduced and thriven have become healthy. A few miles from Algiers is a farm which was once noted for its deadly fevers. Life on it in the summer months was almost impossible. In the year 1867 the owners planted thirteen hundred eucalyptus-trees, and they grew nine feet in thirteen months, and not a single case of fever appeared, nor has there been any fever there since. Now if the eucalyptus will make the sickly climate of the Fontane healthy, it can safely be relied on as an antiseptic and disinfectant; and I advise those curious in such matters to watch the success of the Trappist monks in its cultivation.
Near Constantine, Algeria, there were vast swamps, never dry even in the hottest months, and productive of violent periodic fevers. About fourteen thousand eucalyptus-trees were planted there, and they soon dried up every square foot of the swamp and killed off the fevers. Maison Carrie, near Hanasch, was once a great market for quinine, as there was much fever, but since the blue-gum has been planted there the demand has almost entirely ceased. Mexico and Cuba were, also, a great many years ago, large consumers of quinine, and, as the mercantile books of export show, since the introduction of eucalyptus into those countries the demand has greatly fallen off.
Mr. John P. Curry relates the successful completion of a contract for planting two hundred thousand slips of the Austrahan gum-tree—eucalyptus—in the city of New Orleans. He says: "The sprouts having been raised in a hot-house, the planting of these trees commenced some six years ago, the city government paying at the rate of ten cents for each tree planted. It has already been proven beyond question that this tree, when full-grown, absorbs, or, rather, kills the spores and 'miasmas' in all malarial and fever-ridden districts wherever planted. It is also believed, by scientists and many medical experts, that it will prove a safeguard against the spread of yellow-fever, as it has been seen that, since tnese trees have been planted in the city of New Orleans, yellow-fever has not become epidemic in that usually yellow-fever section."
It is reported a very unhealthy railroad-station in the Department of Var, southern France, has been made healthy by a grove of forty eucalyptus-trees.