Artist, arborists find eco-friendly use for La Jolla eucalyptus trees

By Pat Sherman

As La Jolla continues to lose its majestic, 100-year-old eucalyptus trees — mainly removed to protect the public and property from spontaneously falling limbs — arborists Kevin Worrall and David Lawson have found a way to make the best of a sad situation.

The La Jolla urban forestry specialists have saved large sections of eucalyptus trunks removed from the Village and elsewhere in La Jolla, to be repurposed as furniture or other decorative items.

Ardath Road resident Richard Adams and his wife, Elizabeth Hansen, phoned the specialists’ company,


, hoping to find creative, ecologically friendly uses for the nearly 100-foot-tall blue gum eucalyptus towering over their yard.

Lawson and Worrall then contacted Nautilus Street sculptor and artist

Nasser Pirasteh

to help with the project.

Pirasteh’s contribution will be a sculpture rejoining two sections of the tree that grew around a large “keyhole” opening. The pieces, to be displayed where the tree once stood, will be positioned like a Japanese fan and held together with metal cable meant to resemble spider webbing.

A native of Iran who spent years living in Minnesota, Pirasteh uses wood, stone, plaster and metal to create sculptures inspired by philosophy and poetry — particularly the verse of the 13th century mystic poet, Rumi.

Pirasteh said that, after viewing the tree, he didn’t want to lose the beauty of the keyhole.

“We are keeping whatever nature gave us through all these years,” he said. “We’re just modifying a little bit through a simple solution.”

Worrall and Lawson will haul the base of the trunk to their mill in Ramona, where it will spend two to three years drying before it is made into furniture, most likely six-foot- wide table tops.

San Diego woodturner Mike McElhiney will make bowls and other items from smaller sections of the eucalyptus.

“We’re honoring the tree and doing something positive with it,” said Worrall, a La Jolla native. “It’s more at a spiritual level, if you will. We’re doing the tree justice, instead of just grinding it up or burning it. It’s something people can appreciate for a long time.”

Worrall said the eucalyptus is the biggest he’s removed in his three decades working on trees.

“I’ve seen a lot of big eucalyptus trees go down around town and this is one of the real granddaddies,” he said.

Worrall and Lawson are also drying sections of Eucalyptus trees removed near the Wall Street post office, in front of U.S. Bank on Girard Street and, more recently, a eucalyptus felled last month on Ivanhoe Avenue.

“I have a piece of the one that fell by the U.S. Bank that’s 5-feet-thick and 10,000 to 12,000 pounds,” Worrall said.


recently also removed a 90-year-old Torrey pine tree from the Lower Hermosa area, which took them five trips, each truckload weighing as much as 15,000 pounds.

Worrall said tree removal services such as Davey Tree, which removed the Ivanhoe eucalyptus, are “really happy” to see them show up at a work site.

“I know as well as anybody how much work it is to process a trunk like that,” said Worrall. “It saves them hours of labor and (hundreds) in dump fees,” not to mention wear and tear on their chain saws. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Adams said he and his wife first consulted an array of tree experts in an attempt to save their eucalyptus, though it was determined that an insufficient source of water and damage from voracious tortoise and longhorn beetles would render their effort futile.

The tree was also leaning precariously close to the home’s master bedroom and recreation room, filling the couple with dread each time it stormed.