Coast Live Oak
Corner of Bush and Mercy
One of California’s real celebrities, the Live Oak is a very valuable addition to our landscapes. This particular specimen is well shaped and appears to be in good health, providing a visual anchor and introduction to the park behind it.
Live Oaks produce abundant crops of acorns which have fed multiple Native American cultures in California for millennia. Deer and squirrels also benefit from this valuable food source. It can be a fast grower under the right conditions, filling out to be a 60 feet (or more) tree with an equal or greater spread. Even at this impressive size it makes a good street tree. It is also evergreen and can reach the venerable age of 250+ years. Trees of this age are striking in their appearance, with large twisted and gnarly limbs.
This a popular street tree in Mtn View, and for good reason. It is handsome, provides welcome but not too dense shade and is tolerably well behaved around streets and sidewalks. It is evergreen with a very pleasing rounded shape to its crown. As you might expect from its common name, all parts of the tree are aromatic. The easiest way to experience its wonderful fragrance is to crush a leaf and take a whiff. Be sure to check out the allee of Camphors around the corner on Velarde, between Bush and Calderon.
445 Bush St
A native to the Himalayas in India, the Deodar Cedar is considered to be the most popular landscaping cedar in America. Around here these trees grow to 80’+, making it one of the tallest trees in our area. One source of info about these trees goes on to say that it requires full sun and then notes in an aside, “..and just what tree is going to shade such a huge tree?” Well, look directly behind this tree and you will see one of the few trees in the world that can do just that, Sequoia sempervirens, the Coastal Redwood.
Like the Redwood, the Deodar can grow quickly. It must be sited with its huge size and fast growth in mind. Again like the Redwood, to really appreciate the beauty and imposing visual impact of these trees, they must be planted where there is room for them to spread. And if you plant one, give yourself enough room to be able to stand back and take in the majesty of these trees.
This is a very nice planting of four well matched trees, giving a pleasing semi-formal look to this residence. This planting also shows how well Lagerstroemias work as lawn trees as well as street trees. They flower steadily from early summer through fall, in a wide variety of colors, followed by beautiful fall colors in golds, yellows and reds. Reaching a height of 20-25’, their growth habit is generally upright, with some varieties exhibiting a fountain shaped growth habit. They are also prized for their richly patterned, exfoliating bark, which adds winter interest wherever they are planted. By the way this house is the only example of this architectural style in the city. It is considered an historic home in Mtn View.
Bush and Velarde
It is small wonder that these trees are prized around the world. Graceful and elegant in form, they do well in many different settings. They are especially valued as specimen trees, an attribute that this tree exemplifies. Literally hundreds of varieties exist, the product of centuries of breeding and collecting in Japan, their country of origin. They are beautiful year round, beginning with the delicate foliage unfurling in spring. Fall gives a blaze of colors in hues from yellow to purple, followed by a winter display of rugged bark.
Bush and Loreto
Most trees are clearly either deciduous or evergreen, but some trees in our area fall somewhere in between. The Jacaranda is one of them. It is covered in lush, fernlike foliage most of the year, dropping some or all of its leaves in late winter/early spring. They look less than desirable at this time, but they recover quickly as temperatures climb. It is also suggested that these trees flower best in poor soils. That is indeed good news for most gardeners, since they are such handsome and useful street and lawn trees. They are covered with lavender flowers in early spring, but can flower any time of the year.
Silk Tree, Mimosa
Native from Iran to China, Albizia is also known in several languages as the Sleeping Tree, for its habit of folding up its leaves at night. The genus is named after the Italian nobleman Filippo del Albizzi, who introduced it to Europe in the mid 18th century. On the east coast and in the South it is considered invasive and not to be intentionally planted. In California this isn’t the case, but it is considered to be a messy tree and should be planted with this trait in mind. A striking variety known as ‘Summer Chocolate’ was found in 1990 as a seedling in Kawaguchi City, Japan by Dr. Masato Yokoi. It has deep purple/bronze foliage that lingers on the tree later in the year than the species. Two recently planted examples of this beautiful tree can be seen at the corner of California and View.
496 W Dana
It may not look like it at first glance, but this medium sized, evergreen tree is related to Eucalyptus. The familiar cap shaped seed pod is a good clue to the connection. It is used extensively in its native Australia as a street and garden tree, and is rapidly becoming a popular street tree in Mtn View and nearby cities. Whether it does well or not in our area seems to depend on its location. The quality of the soil makes a noticeable difference in its success. In Australia it is used as a lumber and windbreak tree. Interestingly, the lumber is so dense and heavy that a freshly cut log will sink. It is also valued for its bark, usually a colorful mix of mahogany exfoliating to cream. Notice that there are a number of these trees planted along this section of W Dana.
Dracaena, Cabbage Tree (?), and in the Maori language, Ti kauka or Ti rakau
NE Corner of Bush and W Dana
While known in its native land of New Zealand as the Cabbage Tree and used as a food source, on the west coast of North America it is used strictly for ornamental purposes. High in sugars and carbohydrates, the Maori people have eaten it for thousands of years. They would cook young trees for two days in huge 21’ diameter pits and then sun dry it for two more days. At this point it could be kept for years. One can only hope that it was as desirable as a food source as it was long-lasting.
It was also valuable as a source of fiber for ropes, clothing and footwear. Its juice was valued for fighting infection. It was even used to brew a “tolerable beer” by the missionaries.
Saucer Magnolia, Tulip Magnolia, Tulip Tree
480 W Dana
The Saucer Magnolia originated by chance in 1820, as an accidental seedling in a French garden. Flowers appear before leaves. The flowers are large, fragrant, and produce cone-like fruits turning red at maturity. This plant is suitable as a specimen tree, but it is very difficult to transplant. M. X soulangiana is a hybrid between M. denudata and M. liliiflora. The cross was done in early 1800s by Chevalier Etienne Soulange-Bodin, Director of the French Royal Institute.
This tree is valued in our area because of the timing of its bloom, usually in our darkest months, December and January. This makes it one of the few, if not the only tree in bloom at this time of the year.
China Doll, Serpent Tree
You might recognize this tree from its leaves as a very common house plant. It is widely sold in small pots, from one to two feet high, but never seen as a tree. It is a beautiful plant, with lacy, fern like foliage. In its native ranges in Taiwan and China it can grow up to 100’ with a 3’ diameter trunk. We most likely will not see such a huge specimen here because of our colder winters and drier summers. Still, this tree is a very respectable size and should continue to gain in size. It has long tubular flowers followed by long narrow seed pods, which resemble small serpents, thus one of its common names.
Big Leaf Maple
Left property line of 279 Bush
It is always rewarding to see a plant that is native to the state doing so well in such an urban setting. Some of our natives are very touchy about their planting and growing conditions, but the Big Leaf Maple is a welcome exception. The proof of this is its success as a street tree, one of the most demanding and unrewarding (for the tree, that is) planting locations around. It is native from southern Alaska to southern California and it can grow up to 50’, but we’re more likely to see it top out at 30’. Its leaves, the largest of all the maples, turn yellow and orange in the fall. Its colors are one of the few bright spots on our hills during that season.
This maple can also produce maple syrup. Its sugar concentration is about the same as the east coast Sugar Maple, but the flavor is reportedly a bit different. Perhaps we will see it on the store shelves some day.
White Mulberry, Fruitless Mulberry
Left property line of 279 Bush
This is the mulberry used to feed silkworms in China. Although it isn’t used for that purpose in our area, it does have great value as a beautiful and dependable garden tree. Its leaves usually resemble those in the photo, but can also look remarkably like its well known relative, the edible Fig. The White Mulberry is scientifically notable for its rapid plant movement. The flowers fire pollen into the air by rapidly releasing stored elastic energy in the stamen. The resulting movement is in excess of half the speed of sound, making it the fastest movement in the plant kingdom. Quite an addition to anyone’s garden, and a great conversation piece, to boot.
With a good imagination, and from a distance, you might think this tree is a member of the Pine family, but closer inspection would show you that it isn’t, even though its common name refers to Pines. However, it is a conifer, though unlike any we are familiar with. It’s part of a large family of tropical and subtropical conifers, many of which are little known to science. This planting shows how versatile this tree can be. If left to its own devices, it becomes quite a large tree. There are several huge specimens in Rengstorff Park. Here it is continually pruned into a narrow columnar shape and kept at a manageable height. Its versatility also extends to being used as an espalier and as a hedge.
NE corner Bush and Villa
This tree is, thankfully, growing in popularity, both as a street tree and as a garden tree. It has a beautiful shape when it’s grown past its youthful awkwardness, it casts much appreciated shade and the fall colors can’t be beat. We have nothing else in our area that provides such a reliable and lengthy fall display. The colors range through red, yellow, orange and gold, all the way to deep scarlet with a tinge of purple. The female trees can be a bit messy with their seed pods (inedible, by the way), but it seems a small price to pay when you weigh in all its other positive attributes. There are quite a few of these trees planted along Villa, from this corner down to Calderon. Group plantings only accentuate their beauty.
This is a good example of a tree that could use some TLC. It seems to be in good health, but could use a haircut. Chinese elms will grow in a tangled mass like this if left to their own devices. Judicious pruning would open up its structure, helping to prevent disease within its canopy. It would also improve its appearance dramatically. These trees naturally develop a twisting branch structure that is one of the tree’s best features. Combined with the textured and patterned bark, pictured in the inset photo, and the gracefully draping foliage, this tree is an exotic addition to any garden space.
Tree of Heaven
Since this tree appears to grow anywhere and everywhere, it’s only appropriate that it’s included here as a seedling. Unless nothing else will grow here it is probably best to remove this tree now. Once it is established it is very difficult to eliminate, resprouting violently from stumps and roots far from the original tree. Still, you have to admire a plant that will do so well in very adverse situations. It becomes an attractive tree in time. It was introduced to California by the Chinese during the Gold Rush as a reminder of home. It grows everywhere in the Gold Country at all elevations and in the worst, hard, red clay soil. It is the tree from the book “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.”
Who hasn’t, at least once in their life, suspended an Avocado pit with toothpicks over water and watched as the miracle of life began? The fact that these trees are relatively common in our area is probably the direct result of many of those science experiments coming to fruition. And although native to Central and South America, the Avocado will grow and bear fruit in our climate. If it bears at all that home grown seedling could take 8-20 years to bear fruit. Grafted varieties will fruit reliably within a few years. The Avocado is a handsome addition in the garden, being evergreen and very shady. Still, it does attract rodents(of all kinds!), it has a heavy, slow to decompose leaf drop, the roots are aggressive and will lift pavement, and it absolutely requires good drainage. But if you have a large, wind protected corner to let it fill, it will do just that while providing you with welcome, tasty nutrition at the same time.
Another example of Live Oak, this time a magnificent mature specimen towering over the house in front. Notice the typical round crown and twisted limb formations. Also take note of how far back you have to stand to really take in all of this beautiful tree.
Mediterranean Cypress, Italian Cypress
It’s not easy to tell clearly, but it appears that these trees have been topped to form a flat plane beneath the power lines. This is a good example of the wrong tree in the wrong place. Planting trees that want to grow straight and tall under power lines is a recipe for trouble, trouble for the utility companies and especially trouble for the tree. If the original tree planter had done their homework they would have discovered that this tree can easily reach 100’ in height, well above the level of the power lines by at least a factor of 2. Add to this the fact that these trees are extremely long lived, (up to 1000 years!), and you have many compelling reasons to not plant these trees here. On the other hand, given the size of these trees and their possible life span, it could be that they have been here far longer than the power lines themselves. It’s unlikely, given the age of the neighborhood, but it is fun to consider the situation from the trees perspective. It is also grown for its very durable, scented wood, used most famously for the doors of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, Rome.
Bush and California
It is not a very common tree to plant in an urban setting, so it’s a treat to see such a nice specimen of this, our most important lumber tree, on our walk. Douglas-fir is the second tallest tree in the world, second only to the Coast Redwood. Growing up to 250’ and living 500-1000 years, in the wild it can be found from British Columbia to Central California. Its valuable lumber is used for everything from gardening stakes to home built aircraft. As a garden tree it obviously needs a lot of room, but is not overly demanding otherwise. It does have shallow roots, making it more of a challenge to plant beneath. Because of its similarity to other genera, Douglas-fir has given botanists fits. It has, at various times, been called a pine, a spruce, a hemlock, and a true fir. In 1867, because of its distinctive cones, it was given its own genus--Pseudotsuga--which means false hemlock. It is also widely grown as a premium Christmas tree.
Chinese Tallow Tree
This tree comes to us from China where it has been cultivated for about 1,500 years as a seed-oil crop. The many uses of its oil are staggering, ranging from candles to fertilizer, paint driers to food, lubricants to lamp oil. For us it is primarily a small ornamental tree, grown for its attractive form, leaves and especially its fall colors. We are actually lucky to be able to grow it in our area, because in other parts of the country, notably Florida, it is an extremely invasive species. It reproduces wildly there and in many areas is controlled only with the use of bulldozers and fire. Another use - Chinese place an insect on the tree to feed; it lays eggs in the seed, making "jumping beans," because of movements of larvae inside the seeds.
It seems appropriate to end our walk with our state tree. In many ways it is as unique as California itself. Young redwoods use sunlight so efficiently (3-4 times more than pines) that they can grow even in deep shade. But with full sunlight and moist soil, a redwood sapling can grow more than 6 feet in a single growing season! That is the equivalent of growing an entire small tree in one season. Redwoods are a hydrostatic marvel. They can siphon water upward to great heights, fighting gravity and friction every inch of the way. And during our dry summers, in their native habitat they actually create their own "rain" by condensing heavy fog into drenching showers that provide welcome moisture to the roots below. In addition, scientists believe that redwoods take in much of their water directly from the air, through their needles and through canopy roots which the trees sprout on their branches. Lofty "soil mats" formed by trapped dust, needles, seeds and other materials act like sponges to capture the water that nurtures these canopy roots. Moisture from fog is thought to provide 30% to 40% of a redwood's water supply. Their growth and appearance in our area can vary widely as a result of location and individual tree variations. It is easy to see this difference in trees that are in close proximity to one another or even in trees that are right next to one another. They are not easy trees to live with once they attain some size. Their sheer bulk is dominating, their roots are greedy and it is hard to plant under them. Still, once you learn to recognize it you will see how widely it is planted and appreciated.