Self-Guided Tree Walk: Crescent Park

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The Crescent Park Tree Walk begins on Lincoln Avenue between University Avenue and Hamilton Avenue.

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1a. London Plane Tree (Platanus x acerifolia)

~ 1250 Lincoln Avenue, street tree on the left

The second-most numerous street tree in Palo Alto, London Plane Trees are in the sycamore family. They are very tolerant of urban pollution, shedding toxins in their peeling bark. A disease called anthracnose is common in older varieties of London Plane Trees, but those planted today are bred to be resistant.

1b. Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

~ 1250 Lincoln Avenue, street tree on the right

The tallest deciduous tree in the world, the Tulip Tree has inconspicuous tulip-like flowers and bright gold fall color. Its wide-spreading roots need summer water. It is very prone to aphid infestation; the resulting sticky, sugary coating on and around the tree in turn provides food for a sooty mold fungus.

2. Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

~ 1195 Hamilton Avenue, 2 street trees

Southern Magnolias are the most numerous street tree in Palo Alto. Many Southern Magnolias were planted in Palo Alto in the early 1900s by the Woman’s Club of Palo Alto, whose members traveled through the town with a horse and cart to water them. Today, many of these trees are showing their age with lots of dead wood and are reaching the end of their expected lifespan.

3. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

~ 1189 Hamilton Avenue, 3 street trees

This prehistoric species—the oldest cultivated tree on earth—provides intense yellow fall color. It comes in two genders, which cannot be distinguished until the sapling is 5–6 years old. The fruit of the adult female emits a terrible stench in the fall, so it is best to buy male trees.

4. Fern Pine (Podocarpus gracilior)

~ 1181 Hamilton Avenue, 2 trees in front yard

Native to eastern Africa, but well-adapted to California. This slow-growing evergreen shade tree is a good pest-free tree for street, lawn, patio or garden areas. Although it is nicknamed Fern Pine, it is neither a fern nor a pine. It is also known as Afrocarpus elongatus.

5. Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

1133 Hamilton Avenue, front yard

Douglas Fir is the principal lumber tree in the U.S. It is native to our local Santa Cruz Mountains as well as much of western North America. It is easily recognized by its cones. They hang from the tree pointing down, and each scale of the cone is accompanied by a papery three-pointed bract that extends beyond the point of the scale. The needles, 1–1½” long, stick out from all sides of the branch.

6a. Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia soulangeana)

~ 1129 Hamilton Avenue, right of the driveway

Often erroneously called a Tulip Tree, this deciduous magnolia is typically planted as a lawn ornament because of its showy white to pink to purplish-red flowers. In the spring, large saucer-shaped flowers appear like tulips before the leaves appear.

6b. European White Birch (Betula pendula)

~ 1129 Hamilton, front yard

A fast-growing, but sometimes short-lived tree. Birches do not store water internally, so they are very sensitive to changes in water level. In this area, lawn water is their typical source of summer water. When stressed by lack of water or when infected by borers (a kind of insect), they die from the top.

7. Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara)

~ 1125 Hamilton Avenue, center of the front yard

This large tree can reach 80’ with a branch spread of 40’. It is native to the Himalayas and is the national tree of Pakistan. The female flowers become barrel-shaped cones that sit on the top of the branches. The cones take a year to mature and then disintegrate while still on the branches, leaving a central spike on the branch.

8. Olive (Olea europaea)

~ 1121 Hamilton Avenue, front yard on the right

The Olive is native to the Mediterranean, and it likes dry soils. This is the fruiting form of the tree, but the fruit is edible only after long soaking in brine. To prevent fruiting and the consequent staining of pavement, it is best to plant a non-fruiting variety.

9a. Red Horsechestnut (Aesculus x carnea)

~ 1031 Hamilton Avenue, street tree on Chaucer Street at the corner

This tree is at its most spectacular in May, when 8” long plumes of dark pink flowers appear all over the tree. It has large, glossy brown nuts in the fall. The appeal of this tree is purely ornamental; the wood is soft and weak and does not burn well.

9b. Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

~ 1031 Hamilton Avenue, second street tree on Chaucer Street

The Eastern Redbud is an attractive small urban tree that requires some summer water. It gets pink flowers in the spring before the leaves come out, and a bit of fall color. It requires little pruning and is very tolerant of shade. It is native to the eastern U.S.

10a. Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

~ 975 Hamilton Avenue, between the house and the garage on Hale Street

Native to the Sierra Nevada, these big trees can grow to 300’ and live 3000 years. Ultimately, their trunk girth is very large, but they grow very slowly. They drop less litter and need less water than their close relative, the Coast Redwood.

10b. Purple-leaf Plum (Prunus cerasifera)

~ 975 Hamilton Avenue, on Hale Street side, mid-house

Most purple-leaved trees in this area are ornamental plum trees such as this Purple-leaf Plum. Plum varieties that do not produce plums are attractive, low-maintenance, small or medium-sized street or yard trees. In spring they have pink flowers before the leaves emerge.

10c. Tricolor Beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Tricolor’)

~ 975 Hamilton Avenue, in yard near the corner

The striking foliage of this handsome tree is purple with irregular pink borders. This location, in a large open space of lawn in a prominent location, is ideal for this tree.

10d. Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis)

~ 975 Hamilton Avenue, left of the front walk

Like other palms, this is not really a tree at all, but a giant grass. It grows from the tip and has no woody tissue. The fronds of palms must be shredded before being added to a compost pile because of their slow decomposition rate.

11. Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia)

~ 665 Hale Avenue, front yard

This drought-tolerant evergreen can live for up to 200 years and reach up to 70’. Avoid running heavy equipment over the root zone and watering around the tree during dry summer months. Sprinkler water that hits the trunk is especially damaging.

12. Little-leaf Linden (Tilia cordata)

~ 1012 Forest Avenue, 2 street trees

This deciduous tree has toothed, heart-shaped leaves. It has fragrant flowers in July that emerge from a papery, pale green leaf-like bract. It is called a lime tree in England, though it is unrelated to the true lime.

13. Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

~ 1032 Forest Avenue, right side of the front yard

Known from fossils in California and elsewhere and thought to be extinct, this tree was rediscovered in China in 1941. Through cultivation of the seeds, it quickly spread throughout the world. Its leaves are very similar to our familiar Coast Redwood, but they are deciduous. They turn brown in the fall and fall off, re-emerging in the spring.

14. Chinese Tallow Tree (Sapium sebiferum)

~ 1044 Forest Avenue, left of the driveway

This attractive deciduous tree with good red fall color is native to China. The flowers are 4” catkins that cover the tree in summer. It is widely grown in the tropics where the seeds yield vegetable tallow used for soap, oil, and candles.

15. California Black Walnut (Juglans hindsii)

~ 1056 Forest Avenue, tree left of the driveway

Native to central California, the nut is smooth and hard and embedded in a thick green husk that will stain the fingers. Only a few native stands of this tree remain. It is grown for use as an ornamental tree and for its wood, which has a beautiful grain and good woodworking properties. The primary commercial use of this tree is as rootstock for English walnut (the edible walnut) orchards all over the world.

16. Valley Oak (Quercus lobata)

~ 1130 Forest Avenue, center of the front yard

Valley Oaks and Coast Live Oaks were the predominant native trees in Palo Alto prior to development. The landscape under this lovely oak requires minimal summer water and creates a habitat similar to its original environment.

17. Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

~ 1170 Forest Avenue, street tree in front of the driveway

The Silver Maple is a relatively fast-growing deciduous tree that is one of the most common trees in its native area in eastern North America and Texas. The undersides of its large leaves are silvery. Small flowers appear before the leaves unfold in the spring. This tree requires summer water.

18. Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

~ 1180 Forest Avenue, 2 trees in the front yard

These red Japanese Maples are most likely the variety ‘Bloodgood.’ In the fall, after a sufficient number of frosty nights, they turn an eye-catching bright red that is almost fluorescent. Arborists recommend planting them in well-drained soil.

19. River Birch (Betula nigra)

~ 1121 Lincoln Avenue, right side of the front yard

Native to the eastern U.S., where it grows near rivers. The bark of this birch is much darker and thicker than the European White Birches seen earlier on this walk.

20. Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)

~ 1131 Lincoln Avenue, street tree

A small deciduous tree with outstanding fall color. It has small dark blue fruits, about ½” long, which were eaten by Native Americans in its native eastern U.S. Careful selection of a location for this attractive ornamental tree is important; it prefers moist, well-drained soil containing lots of organic matter, and it does not transplant well.

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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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