Self-Guided Tree Walk: Community Center

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The Community Center Tree Walk begins at the Children’s Library, 1276 Harriet Street.

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1. London Plane Tree (Platanus x acerfolia)

~ 5 street trees in front of the library

A deciduous tree that originated in England in the 17th century. Named after the city of London, it accounts for more than 50% of the planted trees in London. It was introduced to America in Colonial times. On University Avenue in Palo Alto they replaced the Glossy Privet.

2. Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

~ 3 trees near the right front corner of the library

These young trees with heart-shaped leaves are native to eastern North America. The Eastern Redbud is the largest and fastest growing of all the redbuds and the most apt to take on the form of a tree. With flowers in spring, it is a good garden tree and likes water. Its open, umbrella-like crown gives it a very graceful look. The pointy tips on the ends of the leaves distinguish it from the Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis.

3a. Western Juniper (Juniperus occidentalis)

~ 1043 Parkinson Avenue, right of front walk behind the gate

A member of the cypress family sometimes called Sierra Juniper because they are native to dry mountain slopes and high country of California, Oregon, and Washington. It is seen as a large shrub or small tree, 15–20’, where summers are long and dry, and in thin, rocky soils. In a friendlier environment, this specimen grows tall and full.

3b. Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

~ 1043 Parkinson Avenue, right of front walk near the sidewalk

This small deciduous tree with 2–4” oval leaves is native to the eastern U.S. White, pink, or nearly red flowers almost cover the tree in mid-spring, before the leaves expand. Often wider than tall, Flowering Dogwoods are known for their open growth, which makes the flowering season spectacular.

4. Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata)

~ 813 Melville Avenue, right front corner

This large Monterey Pine is somewhat crowded by the two nearby Black Acacias and the Coast Redwood. It is native to a small area of California near Monterey. The cones of Monterey Pine remain closed until they are opened by the heat of a forest fire; the seeds are then discharged to begin a new forest.

5. California Red Fir (Pinus magnifica)

~ 815 Melville Avenue, front yard near the front door

This handsome fir is native to the West Coast, but at elevations much higher than Palo Alto! To reach its maximum height of 100–150’, it needs moist, well-drained soil.

6. Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’)

~ 863 Melville Avenue, left front corner

A magnificent specimen! Named after the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco, this cedar can grow to 60’. The short blue-gray needles are grouped in clusters and the cones are carried upright on its branches. The branches of the Blue Atlas Cedar are sloped upward, unlike the Atlas Cedar, which has more horizontal branches.

7. Silver Dollar Gum (Eucalyptus polyanthemos)

~ 984 Harriet Street, corner of Greenwood Avenue

Previously a member of the ‘box bark’ series of eucalypts, this tree has recently been grouped in the ‘gum’ series (so named because of the gummy resin beneath the bark). The tree’s real name is Red Gum. Sunset popularized the name Silver Dollar Gum due to the blue-silver color of the round adolescent foliage. Native to Australia.

8. Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica)

~ 985 Harriet Street, 2 trees at the corner of Greenwood Avenue

These trees are the green version of the Blue Atlas Cedar seen earlier and native to the Mediterranean. This large, majestic tree, used for shipbuilding in ancient Greece, needs a large area to develop properly.

9. Australian Willow (Geijera parviflora)

~ 1135 Greenwood Avenue, 2 street trees

A graceful, fine-textured tree from Australia. The foliage is similar to the Weeping Willow, but it is unrelated. It is a trouble-free street tree because of its deep, non-invasive roots.

10a. Purple Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropunicea’)

~ 1159 Greenwood Avenue, left side

Purple Beech is native to central Europe. Beeches have a dense network of fibrous roots near the soil surface that inhibits the growth of lawn or plants beneath. The Purple-leaf Plum—two houses to the left at 1143 Greenwood Avenue—looks very similar at first glance, but if you compare the leaves, you see that the Purple Beech leaves have fine hairs around the edges.

10b. Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

~ 1159 Greenwood Avenue, 2 street trees

An evergreen tree with glossy, leathery leaves. These trees produce large, fragrant, creamy white flowers, 8–10” wide, that bloom throughout the summer and fall. It was widely planted as a showy street tree in Palo Alto in the 1920s.

11. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold’)

~ 1181 Greenwood Avenue, 2 street trees

An ancient tree found around the world, its fossilized leaves have been dated from prehistoric times. It has been planted in Chinese temple grounds since ancient times as a sacred tree. The foliage turns a bright pure yellow after fall rains. While quite barren in winter, this is a “must see” street tree in October and November.

12. European Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

~ 1048 Hutchinson Avenue, center front yard

Another lovely beech that can live up to 250 years. The leaves of this green-leafed version turn russet and bronzy in fall. It is hardwood native to Europe, where it was used in shipbuilding. It was imported to America during the Colonial era.

13. Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara)

~ 1189 Harker Avenue, corner of Hutchinson Avenue

Native to the Himalayas. Notice the upright cones that are characteristics of all true cedars. It is similar to the Atlas Cedar, but the top of the tree and the branches are droopy and the needles are longer and softer. The botanical name is derived from the Sanskrit devadara, which means tree of the gods.

14. American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

~ 1236 Harker Avenue, street tree

Love them or hate them, American Sweetgums have been planted extensively in Palo Alto. This tree shows one of the problematic features of American Sweetgums: their ability to break sidewalks. The original sidewalk has been replaced with one that curves around the tree. On the street side, the curb and gutter have been broken and pushed toward the street by the tree.

15. Laceleaf Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum’)

~ 1111 Cedar Street, between the front walk and the driveway

This yard has a beautiful example of the small grafted weeping form of the Japanese Maple. They are small trees which grow to 6’ high and 12’ in spread. The larger Japanese Maples in the yard across the street make an interesting comparison.

16. Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

~ 1141 Cedar Street, to the right of the alley next door

The naming of this tree is rather complicated, especially because it is not, technically, a fir at all! The common name is in honor of David Douglas, the Scottish botanist who first documented the tree on Vancouver Island in 1791. The genus name (the first part of the botanical name) means “false fir.” The species, or second, name honors Archibald Menzies, the first botanist to collect California specimens in 1792 and 1794, and a rival of David Douglas.

17. Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis)

~ 1231 Parkinson Avenue, right side of house

A grand tree! Tolerates poor soils and is generally insect and disease resistant. Often grows at an angle, usually towards the sunny Southwest. Native to the Mediterranean area, its name comes from the ancient city of Syria. The light-colored sapwood and reddish-brown heartwood are dense, strong, and very durable. This wood was used to build the historic Roman ships of Nemi. The bark is rich in tannin and was used to tan animal hides.

18. Chinese Tallow Tree (Sapium sebiferum)

~ 1249 Pine Street, street tree

This tree is known for its dramatic red, yellow, or purple fall color. Chinese Tallow Trees grow to 35’ with an upright, rounded canopy and lovely heart-shaped leaves. They give light-to-moderate shade and can grow fast when given plenty of water. The name “tallow tree” is derived from the Chinese practice of using the waxy coating around the seeds for making candles.

19. Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)

~ “The Magic Forest” along Hopkins Avenue

Coast Redwoods are protected by the City of Palo Alto. Their native habitat is coastal hills and valleys where foggy weather is more prevalent. “The Magic Forest” was named in memory of Edith Ellery Patton, a teacher at Walter Hays School who took her students to the grove to read stories to them.

20. Valley Oak (Quercus lobata)

~ 1335 Hopkins Avenue, center of front yard

“California’s mightiest oak,” according to Sunset’s Western Garden Book. A Valley Oak should determine the other landscaping around it, since watering of smaller plants around its roots can cause root crown fungus to develop, leading to falling limbs and death of the tree. The lack of landscaping around this tree is ideal.

21. Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii)

~ 1290 Cedar Street, near the corner of Hopkins Avenue

A slow-growing native to Japan, where it is an important timber tree. It has an irregular growth habit with age, often with leaning trunk. This tree is leaning away from the big Coast Redwoods.

22. Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia)

~ 1295 Wilson Street, on Hopkins Avenue

One of two species of oaks protected in Palo Alto by city ordinance. They are native to coastal California and south to Baja California. The species is endangered by a disease called Sudden Oak Death Syndrome.

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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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“The best friend on earth of man is the tree.
When we use the tree respectfully and economically,
we have one of the greatest resources of the earth.”

~ Frank Lloyd Wright
American architect

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