South Park SD: The Trees of Fern Street

What gives South Park SD its distinctive look and feel?

Grape Street Dog Park?

Popular spots such as Buona Forchetta, Hamilton’s Tavern, and the recently famous Shawarma Guys?

The Artwork?

Yes, they are all wonderful. However I believe it is tree-lined Fern Street that charms visitors.

Thanks to its canopy and dappled sunlight, Fern looks (and feels) decidedly different than most streets in Southern California.

For a startling example in contrast, go to Ivy Street, located across from the yellow Pedestrian Crossing sign above.

See it below.

The lovely Queen Palms above provide height and interest. And yet by the trees alone I’d have a tough time identifying Ivy from any other Southern California street.

Fern Street, on the other hand, is unique.


Fern Street’s best features are courtesy of Tipuana Tipu, or “Tipu”, trees. Tipus are native to South America and planted to provide dappled shade for pedestrians and other travelers. They provide the same for Fern Street’s residents and visitors.

Looking up on Fern Street is a qualitatively different experience than doing the same elsewhere in So-Cal.


Now let’s look at some more sections of Fern Street. Notice the difference when a Tipu is “missing” from the roadside.


Fern Street is charming in exact relation to the level of Tipu tree presence. Full-grown, healthy trees spaced consistently create a cozy “corridor”. Walking it feels like enjoying a favorite forest path.

There is something primal about that “walk in the woods” feeling. It is fundamentally important to our well-being as creatures.

Go to your favorite path in your favorite woods, walk quietly, absorb the experience, and tell me that deeply connected and peaceful feeling isn’t important somehow.


A Point of Clarification

Many people incorrectly think the Tipu is also called a Gold Medallion. Gold Medallions exist in South Park SD, however they are different trees.

The easiest way to spot a Gold Medallion is by its elongated brown or green seed pods.

Elongated seed pods distinguish Gold Medallions, like this one on the northwest corner of Fern and Grape Streets, from other South Park SD species.

When in bloom, robust-flowered yellow rings burst forth out of the Gold Medallions’ leaves, thus the name, while Tipus’ delicate yellow flowers drape over its high canopy.


Fern Street is also home to Fern Pines. Locals will recognize Fern Pines as the “fuzzy-looking” trees surrounding Captain Kirk’s Coffee.

These two Fern Pines below stand on the west side of Fern just south of Date Street.

Below is a Tipu mingling with Fern Pines at the intersection of Fern and Grape Streets. Notice Ivy Street’s So-Cal look in the distance.

Tipus, Gold Medallions, and Fern Pines are some of the many tree species Kate Sessions, the Mother of Balboa Park, introduced to Southern California. She also introduced Jacarandas, Chinese Flame Trees, Chinese Junipers, Australian Willows and many species of palms, all of which have a presence in South Park SD.

Of all the trees, though, Tipus provide South Park SD a distinctive feel that I believe is worth acknowledging and consciously appreciating.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

11 thoughts on “South Park SD: The Trees of Fern Street

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