The Ellwood Queen

The Ellwood Queen title=
The Ellwood Queen
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By Tom Modugno of Goleta History

We all know Ellwood Cooper left his mark on the Goleta Valley, in a good way. He planted thousands of trees around our area and many of them still exist. But there is one tree that stands above them all, literally.

The Ellwood Queen is a prime specimen of a Lemon-Scented Gum tree planted by Mr. Cooper in 1887 on his gorgeous ranch in western Goleta. The Lemon-Scented Gum is a close relative of the Eucalyptus, one of Ellwood’s favorites, and many folks get them confused. Due to their regal beauty and their drought resistance, they became quite popular and were planted throughout California as an ornamental tree.


David Gress photos

Its unique, pinkish-white bark is smooth to the touch and its long trunk can lift the tree to heights well over 100 feet. Pick a leaf, crush it between your fingers and you’ll notice a lemony smell, also, the sap the tree emits is quite sticky or gummy. So, it stands to reason, its common name is Lemon-Scented Gum Tree.

In the 1880’s, Ellwood brought many varieties of trees from all over the world to Goleta for a variety of reasons. He brought the Lemon-Scented Gum trees from Australia and planted this one in 1887. Today, this is the largest of its kind in California, measuring over 140 feet tall, a crown spread of over 95 feet, and a trunk almost 14 feet around. Early in the 1900’s it was crowned the “Ellwood Queen” and today, at 134 years old, she still stands tall and proud.

This early photo is from a U.S. Bureau of Forestry bulletin published in 1902. The caption notes that it was only 15 years old at that time! Quite remarkable how tall it had grown since it was just planted in 1887.

In 1921, the Doty family bought the Ellwood Ranch and the Queen watched as the next chapter unfolded. She can be seen towering in the overexposed background. The Doty’s would become excellent caretakers for the Queen.

In 1940, renown photographer Josef Muench came to Ellwood Ranch to photograph the Queen for a book by Maunsell Van Rensselaer called “Trees of Santa Barbara”. Van Rensselaer wrote it was, “the tallest known tree of any kind in this region”.

Donna Doty Lane provided us with this note card her father wrote that was clearly related to Van Rensselaer’s book, since it’s the same year and he quotes the same measurements.

In the late 1940’s a fire destroyed the old boarding house on the ranch and again, the Queen can be seen lurking in the background, luckily at a safe distance.

In 1956, Sunset magazine featured the Ellwood Queen in an article about exceptional California trees.

The article offers a brief biography of Ellwood Cooper, directions to see the tree and this photo of the tree in 1956. The car may look outdated, but the Queen hasn’t changed a bit! She never goes out of style.


This colorized photo from the 1950’s was also sent to us by Donna Doty Lane. Clearly the Doty family appreciated the beauty and history of the Ellwood Queen, and their stewardship is a big part of why she still stands today.

In 2015, horticulturalist Randy Baldwin of San Marcos Growers and his associates measured the Ellwood Queen at 142 feet tall with an average canopy of 96 feet wide and 165 inches in girth. They had the tree listed on the California Big Tree Registry as a National Champion.

The red arrow shows where the Ellwood Queen has been growing for over a century, just inside the city limits and tucked between developments. Unfortunately it seems her luck may be running out. Rumors are swirling that a developer from Santa Ana has purchased the property and has plans to build four mini mansions. Technically, the Ellwood Queen is not protected, so he could easily decide to tear down this Champion Tree. We have contacted the city and spoken with multiple tree experts that all agree, this tree is worth saving. Hopefully, the new owner will listen to reason, and spare the Ellwood Queen.

Ellwood’s barn and other historic buildings are also on the property and they may be in danger of demolition as well. The good news is, a city permit is required to demolish any building older than 50 years. So that should slow them down a bit, we hope.

If you want to see the Ellwood Queen, please remember it is on PRIVATE PROPERTY. But you can see it from Ellwood Ridge Road, just take care not to block the road. And if you see bulldozers lining up, call the city, they have no permits yet. (805) 961-7500

Besides the “Ellwood Queen”, there are several well-known and historic Lemon-Scented Gums in Santa Barbara.  The “Fernald Eucalyptus”, standing on the east side of the 400 block of Santa Barbara Street, was saved by Pearl Chase when that block was being developed. 

These Lemon-Scented Gum trees in front of the Santa Barbara Library have been designated historic landmarks by the city of Santa Barbara thanks to efforts by Bob Cunningham. There are more remarkable specimens in the 5 Points Shopping Center parking lot.

But the Ellwood Queen was planted by Ellwood Cooper, one of the forefathers of Goleta, and that makes it even more important to our history. We hope the Ellwood Queen will join the others as a protected tree for future generations to enjoy and learn about Goleta’s rich agricultural history.

Sources: David Gress, Donna Doty Lane, Randy Baldwin, Ken Knight, Bob Cunningham

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Minibeast Dec 18, 2021 10:59 AM
The Ellwood Queen

Now identified as Corymbia citriodora. According to Wikipedia:

"Taxonomy and naming[edit]
Lemon-scented gum was first formally described in 1848 by William Jackson Hooker who gave it the name Eucalyptus citriodora in Thomas Mitchell's Journal of an Expedition into the Interior of Tropical Australia.[9][10] In 1995 Ken Hill and Lawrie Johnson changed the name from Eucalyptus citriodora to Corymbia citriodora.[5][11] The specific epithet (citriodora) is Latin, meaning "lemon-scented".[2]

Lemon-scented gum is also commonly known as citron scented gum, citron-scented gum, lemon gum, lemon scented gum, lemonscented gum, spotted gum[3] and lemon eucalyptus.[4]

Corymbia citriodora is similar to C. maculata and C. henryi.[2]

Distribution and habitat[edit]
Corymbia citriodora grows in undulating country in open forest and woodland in several disjunct areas in Queensland and as far south as Coffs Harbour in New South Wales. In Queensland it is found as far north as Lakeland Downs and Cooktown and as far inland as Hughenden and Chinchilla.[2][6]

Kings Park in Perth has an avenue of this species planted many years ago, but the species has spread to become an environmental weed in the Sydney and Blue Mountains in New South Wales and in open woodland areas in the south-west of Western Australia.[3][12]

Some naturalists and conservationists do not recognise the genus Corymbia and still categorise its species within Eucalyptus.[13]

carbelectric Dec 19, 2021 09:48 AM
The Ellwood Queen

Thanks, perfect tree for this climate.

Bluedog Dec 19, 2021 07:38 AM
The Ellwood Queen

There is another Lemon Scented Blue Gum on the driveway of our former family home at 2100 Las Tunas Rd, almost as large as the Ellwood specimen. Simply a gorgeous tree.

Lucky 777 Dec 19, 2021 07:50 AM
The Ellwood Queen

Thank you as always for bringing the landscape alive with history.

a-1639931171 Dec 19, 2021 08:26 AM
The Ellwood Queen

If the SB City Historic Landmarks Commission can require the preservation of eucalyptus trees, as it did during the review of the El Encanto rebuilding years ago, why can't Goleta do the same to preserve this tree?

Babycakes Dec 19, 2021 10:03 AM
The Ellwood Queen

The City of Goleta is not going to protect this tree as it is a non-native invasive species. If it were a coastal oak, then I believe it would be protected from the axe. That being said, I believe legally the new developer can cut it down "at will" or whenever he wants to chop it down. I don't think the wood is much good for building anything, but at a minimum the wood could be sold or auctioned with the proceeds going toward the homeless or some other worthy group.

a-1639938510 Dec 19, 2021 10:28 AM
The Ellwood Queen

Really, this is just a large tree and not some historic marker for what California used to be before the Anglos arrived. It will fall someday and there is no reason why it should not be removed now if that facilitates responsible development. I would not want to be living in the zone of its impact for sure.

Luvaduck Dec 19, 2021 12:25 PM
The Ellwood Queen

Qualifies as a fire hazard given it's height, flamability and vulneraability to Santa Annas.

sonny Dec 19, 2021 12:46 PM
The Ellwood Queen

Thank you Tom Modugno for a wonderful article. I love the history and historical photos you have presented. I lived and worked for over twenty years in a California State Historic Park. It has many farm trees and buildings that we preserved and protected. I share your desire that the Ellwood Queen be allowed to live and die a natural death.

a-1640042129 Dec 20, 2021 03:15 PM
The Ellwood Queen

I can see this tree from my house. It is beautiful. It stands alone in the field offering an excellent vantage point for the hawks to rest and hunt. I think the bigger issue here is the development. Goleta is in short supply of farmland of this quality and organic integrity. Out of town investors bulldozing one of the last historic farms for a quick buck neither benefits our town, local food supply or residents. More private mansions won't either. The open wild spaces, farms, history and fields is what makes this place the good land. Fill in the blanks and all we have left is traffic and a even larger water deficit. Orange county no longer has any oranges. Maybe they can name the new development the "ellwood queen estates" after what was removed to make way? Is this really the direction we are heading?

oops Dec 22, 2021 06:14 AM
The Ellwood Queen

Interesting article. A couple of subtle takeaways- SB has always been in drought conditions even as far back as 1887. We still don’t limit growth but Al least we can rest easily it’s not due to climate change. The other is a call to arms to prevent a landowner from “bull dozing” anything on their property. They have no permits.

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