The Eucalyptus tree has witnessed changing times in Ethiopia. Rulers may have come and gone, but the Eucalyptus still plays an active role in shaping the ecology. Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa looks like a verdant jungle from afar. That is why a Frenchman visiting the country this century suggested changing the city's name to Eucalyptopolis, city of eucalyptus.
There is a story behind the metamorphosis of Addis Ababa (literally, the new flower) into a huge blue gum ( Eucalyptus globulus ) forest. By the 1890s, Ethiopia's emperor Menelik-II had consolidated the country and established himself firmly as a ruler. However, all his achievements as a warrior and statesman were threatened with being lost to posterity by a lack of fuelwood in the capital. Already, an earlier capital, Entoto, had been abandoned for this reason. For the capital, as well as for the rest of the country, wood meant "shelter, warmth, and food.'
At Menelik's request, a French railway engineer arranged for the introduction of eucalyptus in Ethiopia. Within a decade of Menelik's death in 1913 an Englishman described the road to Addis from the North: "...one seems to be about to enter a forest, and it is only on a near approach to the town that houses begin to stand out amongst the trees, and the rays of the sun sparkling and glittering on the metal roofs and whitewashed walls make one realise that a town, and an extensive one at that, is hidden in the foliage.
Thus Eucalyptus globulus , a native of Australia and nearby islands, came to conquer Menelik's capital.
In fact, eucalyptus, pine, and to a lesser degree, acacia, have turned out to be great colonisers in terms of industrial plantation.
In 1990, eucalyptus and pine covered 80 per cent of the plantation area in tropical America and about 50 per cent in Asia-Oceania.