Self-Guided Tree Walk: College Terrace

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College Terrace map

The College Terrace Tree Walk begins at the intersection of College Avenue and Oberlin Street.

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1. Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)

~ 2222 Oberlin Street, front yard

The Coast Redwood was designated the official State Tree of California in 1937. It grows naturally in the unique climatic conditions of coastal California and Oregon where close to one-third of the moisture they receive comes from the condensed fog. Due to the prevailing drought in the Santa Clara Valley floor and the high water needs of this tree, they are no longer considered suitable for planting.

2. California Box Elder (Acer negundo californicum)

~ 2150 Oberlin Street, right side of the front yard

Native to stream banks in central and Northern California mountains, the California Box Elder is drought-tolerant once established. The California version of the Box Elder has fuzzy leaves rather than the shiny leaves of the Box Elder native to much of the rest of the United States and Canada.

3. Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

~ 2067 Oberlin Street, right side of the front yard

The common name “Douglas fir” is misleading, as this tree is not actually a fir. True firs (members of the genus Abies) have cones that grow straight up, like candles, and the scales of the cones fall away as the cone matures. By contrast, the cones of the Douglas fir hang downwards and open when they mature, but do not dissipate.

4. California Pepper Tree (Schinus molle)

~ 2049 Oberlin Street, right side of the front yard

Originally native to the Peruvian Andes, this tree has been in California since the early 1800’s and has now naturalized in many parts of the state. In traditional medicine, Schinus molle was used to treat wounds and infections for its antiseptic properties.The spicy fruit or peppercorns can be irritating or toxic to humans if consumed in large quantities.

5. London Plane Tree (Platanus x acerifolia)

~ 1103 Stanford Avenue, street tree

The fungal disease, anthracnose, is often found in older varieties but newer hybrids are now resistant to the disease. Their large shade canopy and low impact on sidewalks and city streets make them a successful urban tree. The most widely planted street tree in the world, they are the second most common street tree in Palo Alto.

6. English Walnut (Juglans regia)

~ 2019 Harvard Street, left side of the front yard on Harvard Street

The English Walnut provides walnuts to eat and wood for furniture. It is one of the last trees to leaf out in spring, by June green-husked walnuts start to form, and they have fully ripened by fall.

7. Purple Birch (Betula alba ‘Purpurea)

~ 1229 Stanford Avenue, next to the driveway

This Purple Birch is closely related to the more common European White Birch. It is a slow-growing and rather rare tree with a slender white trunk at maturity. Its leaves emerge as a reddish-purple in the spring and change to purple over the growing season. Like all birch trees, their health relies on being watered regularly.

8. Purple Robe Locust (Robinia x ambigua ‘Purple Robe’)

~ 1281 Stanford Avenue, at the corner of Hanover Street

The roots of this tree have a symbiotic relationship with the nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the soil. Their presence converts nitrogen gas from the atmosphere to usable fertilizer for the tree, which in turn helps the tree thrive in poor soil conditions.

9. Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia)

~ 1361 Stanford Avenue, at the corner of Dartmouth Street

One of two oak species native to the Santa Clara Valley floor, the other is the Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) and both are protected by an ordinance in the City of Palo Alto. The coast live oak is an evergreen tree and grows relatively quickly to 70’ with an equal canopy spread. Once established, 5-10 years after planting, they tolerate drought very well; summer watering should be avoided, especially on the root flare.

10a. Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

~ 1425 Stanford Avenue, center of the front yard

Southern magnolias thrive with lots of water. To keep this species healthy give it regular, deep watering through the summer. Thirty years ago arborists performed root crown excavations on both this tree and the adjacent Coast Live oak to remove decades of soil built up at the root flare, the point where the trunk and the roots meet.

10b. Modesto Ash (Fraxinus velutina ‘Modesto’)

~ 1425 Stanford Avenue, 4 street trees on Dartmouth Street

A popular street tree planted in California from the 1940’s through the 1960’s, the Modesto Ash has fallen out of favor due to diseases and parasitic mistletoe infestations. No longer planted in Palo Alto, the Autumn Purple Ash variety is a current substitute.

11. Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea)

~ Werry Park, 2 trees next to the play equipment

This native of the Northeastern United States can reach heights of 60–80’ with deep roots that anchor the tree. This species tends to hold its brown dormant leaves well into winter. These trees were planted in 1989 to shade the play structure.

12. Apricot (Prunus armeniaca)

~ 2149 Dartmouth Street, right of driveway

This deciduous tree is the most commonly cultivated species of apricot. Native to Central Asia, it’s recommended for planting in the Bay Area and has moderate watering needs. However, it’s stem, leaves, and seeds contain cyanide and are highly toxic to humans.

13. White mulberry (Morus alba)

~ 1411 College Ave, two street trees on Dartmouth

This is a fruitless cultivar of the White Mulberry, a tree native to China. It grows fairly rapidly to a height of 30’ with a canopy spread of 50’ which casts a dense shade underneath. Due to heavy surface roots they are nearly always found in lawns. The leaves are the preferred food of silkworms.

14a. Western Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa)

~ 2349 Dartmouth Street, street tree right of the driveway

The heart-shaped leaves, give an odd odor when crushed. The tree grows to 25’–50’ and nearly as wide. Pyramidal clusters of white blossoms with orange and purple spots appear in late spring. They develop into bean-like pods up to 12” long that remain on the tree long after the leaves fall.

14b. Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa)

~ 2349 Dartmouth Street, left of the front walk

Though cultivated around the world, it occurs naturally in three foggy, windswept groves on the Monterey Peninsula where it is one of the rarest trees in the world. Away from their foggy coastal habitat, these trees often develop coryneum canker fungus which can kill them.

15. Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara)

~ 1410 California Avenue, front yard on the left

This very large specimen shows the characteristics that distinguish the Deodar Cedar from other cedars: a pyramidal form with a curved top, drooping branches, and long soft needles. This conifer is native to the Himalaya Mountains. It is a fast-growing tree that can reach 80’. The cones on the tree always point upward and sit on top of the branches.

16. Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)

~ 2390 Hanover Street, 2 trees next to 1330 California Avenue

Italian Cypress is native to the eastern Mediterranean region. The wood, very durable and highly aromatic, was used to build the doors of the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica. Vincent van Gogh was drawn to the Italian cypress and included them in a number of his paintings.

17. Pecan (Carya illinoensis)

~ 2344 Hanover Street, street tree

This deciduous native of the south-central United States is the source of the pecans we eat, but it is a rarity in the Bay Area. Naturally a large, majestic tree, this particular tree has been drastically trimmed to separate it from the overhead power lines.

18. Valley Oak (Quercus lobata)

~ 1311 College Avenue, front yard on the right

No other native California oak matches the sheer majesty of a mature Valley Oak, and this one is especially remarkable, it was here long before any houses were built in the neighborhood. They, along with the Coast Live Oak, were the predominant native trees in the Santa Clara Valley hundreds of years ago.

19. Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis)

~ 1289 College Avenue, left of the driveway

The Canary Island Date Palm is an ornamental relative of the edible date palm, Phoenix dactylifera. Palms are not really trees, they’re more closely related to grasses. They have no woody tissue and new growth is from the top. Look closely and you may see the seeds of other plants that have germinated in the debris on the trunk and have become small plants.

20. Pin Oak (Quercus palustris)

~ 1181 College Avenue, front yard right side

A deciduous tree native to the eastern United States It is sometimes called Swamp Oak because of its preference for wet sites. The acorn is plump, set in a shallow cup, and only ½” long. In brisk fall weather the leaves turn yellow, then red, and finally russet brown. Dead leaves often remain attached to the tree throughout winter.

21. Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)

~ 1181 College Avenue, street tree

The Latin name for this tree is Nyssa sylvatica which gives a precise identification. The common name for a tree can often be misleading as it differs in different parts of the United States ; tupelo, swamp tupelo, black gum, pepperridge, and beetlebung.

22. Silver Linden (Tilia tomentosa)

~ 1135 College Avenue, 2 street trees

This is the predominant street tree planted along Palo Alto’s California Avenue Business District in 2010. The leaves are toothed and heart-shaped with a silvery-white underside and the flowers are pale yellow. When in bloom the aromatic fragrance is quite strong.

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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.

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“Who speaks for the trees, speaks for all of nature.”

~ Professor E.O. Wilson
Harvard University

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