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.
VOTE FOR FRIENDS?
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.
THE TREE WALK
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.)