Ailing Eastlake eucalyptus tree showing signs of life, but it may not be enough

A cold-damaged eucalyptus tree in Eastlake’s Hamlin street end that was given a professional pruning last summer in an effort to save it is showing a few signs of new growth.

The bits of growth are coming amidst mostly brown leaves hanging off the tree. Joshua Erickson, an arborist with the City of Seattle, says that the growth on the trunk, while it may look encouraging, is a sign of stress. The professional tree pruner who worked on the tree last August reached the same conclusion.

“It sounds very typical of a declining eucalyptus,” Erickson said in an email this morning. Erickson said that, ultimately, the tree will have to be removed, although he doesn’t know when that might happen

“Obviously we want to remove it before it becomes a safety issue, but it could take several years for it to get to that point (not that it should wait that long),” he wrote. ”Based on the dieback it showed last year, I don’t think there was anything anyone could have done to help pull it through.”

Erickson said he’ll inspect the tree to see how it’s doing and what the next steps might be. The city had said last year that it would replace the tree if it needs to be removed.

Ruth Kunath and April Boyd, who both live near the tree, raised money from 19 neighbors last year to pay to get the tree pruned in an effort to save it. In an email, Kunath said the ultimate decision on the tree’s fate rests with the city.

“The final responsibility is theirs,” she writes. “The city was cooperative enough to let us try pruning, yet I am unsure of the degree of success. … I cannot tell if our attempt at pruning off old growth ’saved the tree,” prolonged its ill health, or it is in recovery mode.”

Kunath said she had solicited ideas for a replacement tree last year. Those included liquidambar, katsura, dogwood, magnolia or anything with ”dappled shade.” She isn’t sure what trees the city has in its tree inventory.

She says there was also talk of finding a carver to make art out of the eucalyptus branches, but adds, “as carved art is a subjective view, such an effort would take considerable coordination.”