Self-Guided Tree Walk: Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden

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The Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden Tree Walk begins at the Parking Lot near the corner of Waverley Street and Embarcadero Road.

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1. Manna Gum (Eucalyptus viminalis)

One of several gigantic Manna Gums along Embarcadero Road, this Australian native has lengthy ribbons of sunburnt bark that peel to reveal fresh white trunk. Insignificant white flowers occur throughout the year, but are usually too high to be seen. Pea-sized seed capsules produce year-round litter.

2. Cucumber Tree (Magnolia acuminata 'Golden Glow')

Unusual for this area, the Cucumber Tree is native to eastern North America. Once it reaches 12 years, it has unremarkable yellow flowers high on the tree in the late spring, followed by green fruits that are shaped like a small cucumber. The fruits mature to a dark red color and split open to release red seeds.

3. Smoketree (Cotinus coggygria)

Though naturally multi-stemmed, Smoketrees can also be trained to a single trunk. The name is derived from dramatic puffs of "smoke" which are actually panicles (branched clusters) of fading flowers. Smoketrees are at their best in poor or rocky soils; avoid overly wet conditions.

4. Big Leaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla)

Located between the garden service yard and the Lawn Bowling building, this young deciduous magnolia can produce leaves over 30 inches long. The large flowers of prehistoric Magnolia evolved prior to the appearance of bees and are meant to attract beetles for pollination.

5. Fuji Apple (Malus pumila)

A popular hybrid developed in Japan in the 1930s and brought to market in 1962, the Fuji Apple is a cross between the Red Delicious and Rawls Jennet varieties. It is named after the town of Fujisaki where it was developed. These trees have been formed into an espalier which allows growing in a tight location as well more heat, if oriented next to a building, and maximum sunlight if orientated parallel to the equator.

6. Edible Fig Black Mission (Ficus carica 'Black Mission')

Fig is a common fruit tree in the Bay Area. They can grow to 15–30' but can also be kept to 10' in a large container. The 'Black Mission' variety produces purple-black fruit with pink flesh that is good either fresh or dried. Edible Fig is one of the first plants that were cultivated by humans.

7. Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia)

This wonderful, large specimen could be 200 years old. Although truly an evergreen, its leaves persist for only one year then fall from the tree when new growth starts in the spring. This setting, with no vegetation and no irrigation around the base, is ideal for this species.

8. Cockspur Coral Tree (Erythrina crista-galli)

Coral Tree is known for its extravagant display of flowers which have been chosen as Argentina's national flower. The first flowers form in the spring after the leaves have unfurled. Each branch tip has a big, loose cluster of velvety, birdlike blossoms that vary in color from pink to dark red. In summer, blossoms are replaced by long bean pods. Notice the pollarding (pruning repeated year after year) at the base of new growth. This tree was planted by the Gamble family.

9. Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana)

A deciduous magnolia with white to purplish-red fragrant flowers, 3–6" wide. This tree blooms from late winter into spring before the leaves emerge.

10. Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata)

This deciduous magnolia blooms before the leaves come out. It can be easily distinguished from the Saucer Magnolia because the leaves and flower petals of Star Magnolias are much narrower. The flowers are white and 3" across with strap-shaped petals. Notice the very interesting branching patterns of this tree. (There is a Saucer Magnolia on either side of the Star Magnolia when viewed from the lawn.)

11. Japanese Persimmon Hachiya (Diospyros kaki 'Hachiya')

This tree produces big, slightly pointed fruit quite astringent until they become very soft and ripe. The fruit can be pureed and used as a replacement for applesauce in bread and other recipes. The other persimmon seen locally is the non-astringent 'Fuyu', which is shaped like a flattened tomato.

12. Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis)

The Canary Island Date Palm is an ornamental relative of the edible date palm, Phoenix dactylifera. Palms differ from typical woody trees in that they grow from the tip and have no woody tissue. This specimen and two others on the property were planted by the Gamble family. At the time, Canary Island Date Palms were symbols of wealth.

13. Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

This well-formed, multi-trunked Japanese Maple, and its partner on the other side of the front door, is lovely standing near the Gamble house. The house was built in 1902 for the Gamble family, who moved here from Kentucky after the eldest son enrolled at Stanford University. Daughter Elizabeth lived in the house until her death in 1981 at age 92.

14. Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

These two large old Southern Magnolias are the centerpiece of the front lawn. Many Southern Magnolias were planted along the streets of Palo Alto in the early 1900s by the Woman's Club of Palo Alto. Notice that the lower limbs of these trees are only a few feet above the lawn, unlike the street tree Southern Magnolias, whose lowest limbs are pruned to 14' above the ground for truck clearance.

15. Chinese Tallow Tree (Triadica sebifera)

The light green leaves of Chinese Tallow Trees are dense, but they flutter at the slightest breeze, giving the tree an airy look. Seasonal interest is provided by large yellow catkins in summer and autumn color. This tree and two others along the side of the house were moved here from an estate in Woodside as mature trees.

16. Sugar Tyme Crabapple (Malus 'Sutyzam')

These 14 trees form an allée, the French word for a formal garden promenade punctuated by a feature at each end (fountain and bench in this case). The site was replanted in 2014, replacing the original weeping cherries which had begun to decline due to sunburn (a common issue with the weeping form) and eventually boring insects.

17. Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)

This is the primary street tree along most of the perimeter of the garden. Native to all but the most northern parts of the east coast where it is a major source of wild honey. It is recommended only for irrigated sites, but will provide a brilliant display of crimson fall color.

18. English Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)

Usually a large shrub, this exceptionally large English Laurel has been trained as a tree. It is very tolerant of drought and shade and is relatively pest free.

19. Crape Myrtle 'Tuscarora' (Lagerstroemia x 'Tuscarora')

This multi-stemmed tree is one of many Crape Myrtles along this path from Waverley Street to the back parking lot. They are relatively problem-free trees with showy summer flowers and brilliant fall leaf color. All Crape Myrtles bloom on new wood, so pruning in winter or early spring is important to increase flowering. Their exceptionally smooth bark makes identification easy.

20. Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea)

A deciduous oak that is noted for spectacular scarlet leaf color in fall. The leaves turn brown and die in the winter, but remain on branches until spring, when new leaves emerge. Scarlet Oaks are native to the northeastern U.S.

21. Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum cultivars & varieties)

This bed and the adjacent beds provide a glimpse of the great differences in Japanese Maples. Note the variety in size, leaf color, and leaf shape. Look for markers in the beds to tell you the cultivar name of each tree.

22. Chinese Fringe Tree (Chionanthus retusus)

This tree requires some winter chill in order to produce flowers in late spring. The male and female plants are separate; male plants bear larger flowers. If both are present, the female produces small, dark olive-like fruit that attract birds. Flowers occur only in direct sunlight.

23. Red Oak (Quercus rubra)

Named for its spectacular red fall color, this deciduous oak is native to the eastern half of the U.S. The acorns of Red Oaks take two years to develop; the first year they are small and partially formed and in the second year they elongate and mature.

24. Eddie's White Wonder Dogwood (Cornus x 'Eddie's White Wonder')

This recently-planted tree is a hybrid between the Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) and the Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nuttallii). It is easier to grow and has larger flowers than either of its parents.

25. Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum)

This tree is best distinguished by its reddish, peeling, paper-like bark. Peeling bark is a way for the tree to shed toxins; many birch trees use the same technique. The foliage is a brilliant red in the fall.

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Trees protected by the City of Palo Alto tree ordinance

A permit is needed to remove or prune these trees.

Check the City of Palo Alto Tree Regulations.

Trees with low watering needs

These trees are best adapted to our climate and water availability.

Thirsty trees

These trees require frequent summer irrigation and will suffer from the drought cycle in our area.

Do not plant unless you are aware of a water source such as high water table or creek proximity.

Trees not recommended for planting

These trees are either invasive, do not perform well or create infrastructure or other problems.