Tree Walk in Cole Valley with Friends of the Urban Forest (and vote?)

A few days ago, I joined the Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF)  tree tour of Cole Valley, just over the hill and to the east of us. It was led by Mike Sullivan, who  likes trees (in fact, he wrote The Trees of San Francisco). In 2010, I went on a tree-walk he led in Forest Hill, which was excellent.


Friends of the Urban Forest helps people who want street trees planted in front of their homes. If neighbors get together and call them in, they’ll help figure out if there’s space for trees; if there are utilities and things underground there; what kind of tree would work well in that place; and then get the trees at a discount. Their volunteers care for the trees for three years after they’ve been planted, so they are well-established. As San Francisco loses trees to various mishaps, they’re trying to keep up and replace them.

City trees fight pollution and clean the air, so they’re important quite aside from their beauty. (Though the beauty is important, too; homes on tree-lined streets are valued up to 30% higher than homes on treeless streets.)

You can help FUF to win a grant for $10,000. Odwala is giving this money to the the top ten tree-planting organizations, and FUF is nearly there. Your vote counts for a lot. (One person can only vote once.)  If you’d like to help, CLICK HERE for the link to the voting page.


Cole Valley has some great trees. We started down at Parnassus, near the Walgreens, where the first tree we encountered was Victorian Box. It’s a popular street tree; it’s large enough to look like a tree, but doesn’t try to claim the sidewalk. This street has several.

Unfortunately, when three trees outside the Walgreens were killed in a rare freeze about 15-20 years ago, the owner decided not to replace them. It’s bare sidewalk there.

This interesting tree is a Bailey’s Acacia, also called a Golden Mimosa. It wasn’t in bloom , but Mike said that in season, it’s completely covered in yellow flowers. I looked it up on the Internet, and it’s quite spectacular.

It wasn’t only trees. He stopped under a rather gnarled tree, but what he showed us was the house: It was the childhood home of Governor Jerry Brown. Right here, in Cole Valley. The tree, incidentally, is a Brazilian pepper tree; its berries, apparently, taste peppery.

The next tree was a magnolia champaka, a tree whose flowers are sweetly scented, something between jasmine and frangipani. The flowers of this tree are used in worship in temples. Mike plucked one of he flowers and passed it around. The tree apparently came from Sloat Nursery, and the owner was lucky; they usually need a warmer less windy climate. But this one’s clearly thriving.

Another non-tree: Or perhaps I should say, a former tree. Pat Montandon, a prominent San Franciscan, lived here in a house whose gate was formerly flanked by two stately Monterey cypress trees.  After one was felled by a storm, causing some property damage, she decided the second one had to go as well. But rather than just removing it, she had the tall stump carved into “The Angel of Hope.”

We walked on to one of Mike’s favorite trees: A New Zealand Christmas tree, a species that is generally covered with red flowers. Only this one is a mutation; its flowers are yellow.

Descended from two trees discovered in New Zealand in 1940, it was planted only a few years later by the owner of a nursery garden behind the house.  It’s now maintained by his daughter and son-in-law.

Though it wasn’t in bloom, it was an interesting tree with a rounded shape and a lot of aerial roots.

The Tree Tour continued into the Sutro Forest. There we split from the group and wandered homeward over the mountain and through the woods. (That report is on the Sutro Forest website, HERE.)

Anyone Want A Street Tree?

Kathleen posted a message to the neighborhood Yahoo Group, to let us know that Friends of the Urban Forest are offering to plant street trees in our neighborhood. (It’s reprinted with permission.)

First, the message from Doug Lybeck ( at Friends of the Urban Forest:

Hello!  This is a monthly neighborhood organizing report for tree planting in your neighborhood!

Friends of the Urban Forest is working to get enough commitments to plant trees to enable us to have a tree planting in the  Twin Peaks Area and in almost every other area of the City. When we get up to 30 trees committed by property owners we’ll be able to schedule a community tree planting. Can you help create the  necessary demand?  In so doing you will create a legacy right here in our “front yards” — one that can be enjoyed by yourself and the children and grandchildren of the neighborhood.  And at just $75 for the tree and periodic maintenance for 3 years the price is a real bargain. Research shows that trees increase property values, help the environment and improve our quality of life in many ways.  So please plant a tree in  front of your house or talk with neighbors or local business about planting one (or two) in front of their property!  If you know the owner of a site that  could plant several trees please let me know — we would love to help them start reaping the benefits of having trees.  Plantings are fun and literally  bring neighborhoods together.

Kathleen’s message indicates why for some of us, it’s not feasible, even though we’d love to have street trees (like Forest Hill or St Francis Wood!)  I have the same problems. Not enough space on the street.

But. All the homes here are not uniform, and some of you may have space and inclination to add trees. Please email Doug Lybeck, and/or leave comments here.

Howdy Neighbors,

Friends of the Urban Forest is organizing the planting of trees in our neighborhood (Forest Knolls is included in the “Twin Peaks Area”).  See below [i.e., above] if  you are interested in getting a tree planted in front of your house.  We checked into it and the sidewalk is not wide enough in front of our house (you  need 4′ clear on the sidewalk plus room for a minimum 2-1/2′ cut out for the tree basin).  They will also plant the tree in your front planter if you are  interested in that (we already have trees in all our planters).


A Real Tree Tour – Oct 31 2010

Mike Sullivan, author of the book The Trees of San Francisco that I wrote about, is giving a tree tour under the auspices of Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF). This is a fairly strenuous walking tour (unlike the Landmark Tree tour, which used a fairly large bus) and it’s in Forest Hill. Here’s the information from the FUF website:

Free Tour of Forest Hill

When:  Sunday, October 31, 11am – 1pm
Description: Join us for a tour of landmark trees in the Forest Hill neighborhood led by Mike Sullivan, long-time tree tour leader, former FUF Board Chair, and author of The Trees of San Francisco. Forest Hill is one of San Francisco’s “best-treed” neighborhoods, and this will be the first-ever FUF tour of that neighborhood, so be sure to make this one! Meet at 381 Magellan (near Montalvo) in front of the Bernard Maybeck-designed Forest Hill Association Clubhouse.
Note: we will be traversing several staircases in the neighborhood, so be prepared for some strenuous walking.
Costumes optional.
This should be a great tour. Forest Hill has some really special trees.