Balboa Park in Bloom: April, 2020

Have you ever wanted to know a little more about trees?

Not all the fancy technical stuff. Just enough so you can lord over your friends that you’re smarter than them… and a better, more flora-conscious person.

A simple yet rewarding way to start is to learn species while they’re flowering, and then grab a couple fun facts about each.

Balboa Park contains thousands of beautiful trees from around the world. San Diego’s Mediterranean climate allows species from Australia, South and Central America, South Africa, India, and China to thrive. Fortunately for locals and frequent park visitors, one or another of those varied species are in bloom year-round, so there are new trees to recognize every month.

The Balboa Park trees in bloom, April 2020 are:

  • Cape Chestnut
  • Naked Coral Tree
  • Flowering Peach
  • Weeping Bottlebrush
  • Pink Trumpet Tree
  • Golden Trumpet Tree
  • Brazilian Coral Tree (including a very special tree, even by Balboa Park standards!)
  • Pink Powderpuff
  • Australian Tea Tree
  • Jacaranda
  • Floss Silk
  • Guess Who?
  • South African Coral Tree
  • Orchid Tree
  • Firewheel Tree
  • Red Flowering Gum

NOTE: All photos taken using social distancing and only in open sections of Balboa Park.

**

Cape Chestnut

https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/calodendrum-capense

Fun Stuff:

  • Its Latin name derived from the Greek for “beautiful tree.” [1]
  • It is actually a member of the citrus family. Sure it is. I have a grapefruit and some Cape Chestnuts for breakfast every morning.
  • Some African traditions teach that its seeds bring luck and skill in hunting.
  • In Kenya, “[t]he tough yellow-brown wood is used for housing, tools, stools, etc. but is not commercial. The tree is often chosen as an avenue tree, for its beauty and shade.” [2]

Location(s) in Balboa Park: East Mesa – Morley Field, north of Municipal pool in median.

Briefly deciduous (leafless).

Description: “[It] is indigenous to the coastal forest of South and East Africa. Another spring-flowering tree, it bears large rose-lilac flowers, mottled with purple, in loose terminal clusters. The grass green leaves are oval, up to six inches long and three inches wide, with numerous parallel veins. This medium-sized, semi-evergreen tree blooms during May and June. The fruit capsules which follow are nearly spherical, woody and covered with tubercles. The black and shiny seeds resemble chestnuts.” [3]

Latin name: Calodendrum capense.

Family: Rutaceae.

Native of: South Africa. FYI – San Diego flora called “Cape (anything)” are generally indigenous to The Cape of Good Hope. 

Height: 40-70 feet.

Growth Rate: 1 foot per year.

Lifespan: Up to 150 years. 

**

Naked Coral Tree

https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/erythrina-coralloides

Fun Stuff:

  • It “was voted as the official flowering tree for the City of Los Angeles in 1966.” [4]
  • Coral trees are members of the bean family. Great, now I’m really confused. Cape Chestnuts are like oranges, and coral trees are like chickpeas.

Location(s) in Balboa Park: Central Mesa – West side of Park Boulevard from Desert Garden north to Upas; along southern edge of Zoo parking lot.

Deciduous. That’s why it’s called “Naked.” Or “nekked” if you live south of the Mason-Dixie line.

Description: The tree gets its common name from the fiery red and orange cone-shaped flowering stalks which appear like fat candles at the tips of its leafless, twisted, thorny branches, which have a wandering tendency and create picturesque sculptures.  [5, 6, 7, 8]

Alias: Flame Coral Tree.

Fancy Latin Name It Uses at Dinner Parties and Graduations: Erythrina coralloides.

Family: Fabaceae.

Native of: Mexico. Specifically, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz. [9]

Height: 25 feet.

Growth Rate: 2 feet per year.

Lifespan: Up to 150 years. 

**

Flowering Peach

https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/prunus-persica-helen-borcher

Fun Stuff:

  • “When the Japanese borrowed the Chinese custom of sweeping out bad spirits at New Year, they substituted a branch of flowering camellia for the flowering peach.” [10]
  • “[It] was introduced before 1939 by W.B. Clarke Nursery of San Jose, CA for ornamental use, making it one of the oldest commercial ornamental peaches released in the United States.” [11]
  • In 1962, California State University Long Beach planted over 2,000 Helen Borchers on its campus. [12]
  • They are only ornamental (i.e., they don’t produce edible fruit) but have the same growth habit as the fruiting peach. [13]
  • For home gardeners, it “is a lovely, easy-care tree to use as the focal point of a large flower bed.” [14]

Location(s) in Balboa Park: West Mesa – northwest corner of Balboa Drive and Quince Drive, between Lawn Bowling Greens and El Prado.

Deciduous.

Description: They stand up to 15 feet high, with a broad crown and dark brown, rough bark. The oval leaves are 3-5 inches long with pointed tips, turn golden-yellow in the winter and fall off of the tree for several months.

Fancy Name: Prunus Persica ‘Helen Borcher’.

Family: Rosaceae.

Native of: China

Growth Rate: 3 feet per year.

Lifespan: Less than 50 years.

**

Weeping Bottlebrush

https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/callistemon-viminalis

Fun Stuff:

  • Bottlebrush trees are popular street trees in Costa Rican cities because they flower when small and are able to tolerate a wide variety of conditions. [15]
  • In the New World tropics, they attract hummingbirds and migrating Tennessee warblers, and in Australia, are visited by birds such as honeyeaters, lorikeets, and silvereyes. [16]

Location(s) in Balboa Park: Central Mesa – northwest corner of Park Boulevard and Zoo Place, east of Park Boulevard.

Evergreen

Fancy Name: Callistemon viminalis.

Family: Myrtaceae.

Native of: Australia. Isn’t that country/continent packed with fascinating stuff?

Growth Rate: 1 to 3 feet per year.

**

Pink Trumpet Tree

https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/handroanthus-heptaphyllus

Fun Stuff:

  • The tree’s wood resembles oak and gives it the Spanish name, Roble (oak) de Sabaña. The wood “is used in furniture and cabinets, tool handles, boats, yokes, interior finishing, and parquet.” [17]
  • It has been studied in cancer research. [18]
  • Its bark has been used therapeutically for thousands for years and is considered to have strong immune-building properties. It is used to fight viral and fungal infections, as well as gastrointestinal upsets. It is high in antioxidants and reputed to be helpful in treating a variety of ailments including arthritis. [19]
  • The tree has been named in a couple of novels: Trouble at High Tide, a Murder She Wrote story, and Swimming in the Volcano: A Novel. [20, 21]
  • Brazilians call it the “Divine Tree.” [22]

Description: Each rose-pink bugle has a yellow throat and ornate bell.

Partly deciduous.

Location(s) in Balboa Park: Central Mesa – Desert Garden; West Mesa – East side of 5th between Elm and Grape; East Mesa – Golf Course parking lot, Morley Field north of tennis courts, west of 28th Street in South Park.

Aliases: Purple Tabebuia, Roble de Sabaña, Pau D’Arco, Lapacho, Ipe Roxo

Fancy Name: Hydroanthys heptaphyllus.

Family: Bignoniaceae

Native of: Brazil

Growth Rate: 1 to 3 feet per year.

Lifespan: Up to 150 years.

**

Golden Trumpet Tree

https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/handroanthus-chrysotrichus

Fun Stuff:

California gardener Steve Brigham first met the Golden Trumpet after over a decade of horticultural experience. “But as a college student I found myself working as a gardener at the University of California, Santa Cruz Arboretum… One day, I went into one of the greenhouses to do some weeding – and I could not believe what I saw! An enormous, spectacular bright yellow flower had been produced by a small tree I had never noticed before. The next day, there were more flowers, and more after that – and I was captivated! What I was seeing was Tabebuia chrysotricha, the golden trumpet tree – a plant that would change my life.” Brigham’s determined search for more golden trumpets led him to a rich and rewarding, decades-long study of trees. [23]

Location(s) in Balboa Park: East Mesa – Morley Field, north of tennis courts.

Partly deciduous.

Description: This time of year shows the tree’s many stages of development. Flowers, leaves, and fuzzy creatures from other plants all show simultaneously.

Fancy Name: Tabebuia chrysotricha.

Family: Bignoniaceae.

Native of: Colombia and Brazil

Growth Rate: 3 feet per year.

Lifespan: Up to 150 years.

**

Brazilian Coral Tree

https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/erythrina-falcata

Fun Stuff:

  • Its fancy name comes from the word for sickle, after the blooms’ shape.
  • Seeds are poisonous. Not fun, exactly, but good to know.

A Special Guest

This tree is said to date back to the time of Kate Sessions, which would make it the oldest tree of this species in California. [24]

“There are also two trees in the same area that were planted in 1997 and are about 7 feet tall.” [25]

Location(s) in Balboa Park: West Mesa – southwest of the Marston house.

Listed as “Evergreen to Partly Deciduous” by UFEI and “Semi-Evergreen” by Kathy Puplava. I’ll call it semi-partly everdeciduous.

Alias: Parrot’s Beak.

Fancy Name: Erythrina Falcata.

Family: Fabaceae.

Native to: Brazil, Peru and Argentina.

Growth Rate: 2 feet per year.

Height: 50 feet.

Lifespan: Up to 150 years.

**

Pink Powderpuff

How perfect is this name? This is how I imagine meeting one of these trees for the first time.

  • Me: “Hi, I’m a homo sapien named Jim. Nice to meet you.”
  • Tree: “Hi, I’m a Pink Powderpuff.”
  • Me: “Yes. Yes, you are.” 

If the pink powderpuff were a Broadway show, here’s its best review, penned by the unmistakable Conrad Faunteleroy Goldman: “Calliandra inequilatera makes a most colorful espalier. It is called Pink Powderpuff, for its fluffy blooms… A strong grower, it requires frequent shaping.” [26]

Location(s) in Balboa Park: East Mesa – Morley Field, north of Municipal Pool

Evergreen

Bart Simpson

Fancy Name: Calliandra haematocephala. Say that ten times fast.

Family: Fabaceae.

Native of: Nicaragua to Ecuador.

Growth Rate: 2 feet (+) per year.

**

Australian Tea Tree

https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/leptospermum-laevigatum

Fun Stuff:

  • “The common name Australian Tea Tree comes from a report that Captain Cook used the leaves to prevent scurvy among his crew in the 1700s…” [27]
  • The dried leaves can be used to make some kind of hot beverage. Maybe coffee?
  • Foliage from coastal teatree, Leptospermum laevigatum, constituted the major portion of the diet of ringtail possums, from October 1986 to June 1988, on the west coast of Flinders Island near the small town of Whitemark in Tasmania (148’01’E,40”06’S). You’ll never know when you might need this information. [28]

Location(s) in Balboa Park: West Mesa – east side of Balboa Drive and Quince Drive intersection, north side of El Prado, just west of the Cabrillo Bridge.

Evergreen

Description: Looks like the coolest thrill ride ever.

Alias: Coastal Tea Tree, Australian Teatree.

Fancy Name: Leptospermum laevigatum.

Family: Myrtaceae.

Native of: Your guess is as good as mine.

Growth Rate: 2 feet per year.

Lifespan: Up to 150 years.

**

Jacaranda

https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/jacaranda-mimosifolia

Okay, this might not seem like a big deal, but Jacarandas are EVERYWHERE in San Diego. I mean everywhere. They are among the most common street trees across downtown and surrounding villages. I had the pleasure of being a tour guide for Old Town Trolley San Diego and used to love showing off the sea of purple through Little Italy. I live in South Park, a couple miles from downtown, and Jacarandas line several of our streets. Last night a Jacaranda tree rang my doorbell and asked for a donation. Something about Arbor Day.

Anyway, this is the first Jacaranda bloom I’ve seen this year.

Location(s) in Balboa Park: Central Mesa – Park Boulevard median at Desert Garden. And EVERYWHERE.

Partly Deciduous. Make up your mind, tree.

Notice the Pink Trumpet Tree on the right.

Aliases: Blue Trumpet Tree; Blue Jacaranda; Mimosa.

Fancy Name: Jacaranda mimosifolia.

Family: Bignoniaceae.

Native of: Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia.

**

Floss Silk

https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/ceiba-speciosa

These trees aren’t yet in bloom but they’re having too much fun not to feature. My wife and I call them “Cotton Ball” trees. You can see why.

At this stage, some of their green-shelled cocoons (below) burst open to reveal a shock of “floss silk.”

Location(s) in Balboa Park: Southwest corner of Golden Hill Park.

Deciduous.

Fancy Name: Ceiba Speciosa (previously Chorisia speciose).

Family: Malvaceae (previously listed as Bombacaceae).

Native of: Brazil and Argentina.

Growth Rate:  1 to 2 feet per year.

Height: 50-60 feet.

**

Guess Who?

Find out more in next month’s post…

**

South African Coral Tree

https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/erythrina-caffra

Fun Facts:

  • Distribution in its native South Africa is “limited to the coastal strip of the eastern Cape Province, the south coast of Natal and Zululand.” [29]
  • It was listed as a “Garden Favorite” in California as far back as 1957. [30]

Location(s) in Balboa Park: Central Mesa – Zoo parking lot and entrance; West Mesa – corner of 6th and Juniper Streets, northeast corner of El Prado and Balboa Drive .

Deciduous.

Aliases: Coral Tree, Coast Coral Tree, Kaffir Coral Tree, Kafferboom Tree, Cape Kaffirboom.

Fancy Latin Name It Uses at Dinner Parties and Graduations: Erythrina caffra.

Family: Fabaceae.

Native to: Take a wild guess.

Height: 40+ feet.

Growth Rate: 3 feet per year.

Lifespan: Up to 150 years. 

**

Orchid Tree

https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/bauhinia-variegata

Fun Facts:

  • The tree has religious significance to Buddhists.
  • The flowers are cooked and pickled in some countries.
  • The bark has been used medicinally. [31]

Location(s) in Balboa Park: West Mesa – around Kate Session statue, west side of lawn Bowling Greens; Central Mesa – east side of Zoo parking lot.

Deciduous.

Alias: Variegated Orchid Tree, Purple Orchid Tree, Mountain Ebony, Butterfly Tree, Purple Camel’s Foot.

Fancy Latin Name It Uses at Dinner Parties and Graduations: Bauhinia variegata.

Family: Fabaceae.

Native to: India and China.

Height: 35 feet.

Growth Rate: 2 feet per year.

Lifespan: Up to 150 years. 

BONUS!!! A “Candida” White Orchid

https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/bauhinia-variegata-candida

**

Firewheel Tree

https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/stenocarpus-sinuatus

Fun Stuff:

Just look at them. How much more fun do you want?

Location(s) in Balboa Park: West Mesa – north and east side of Lawn Bowling Greens.

Evergreen.

Description: The name tells the story.

Fancy Latin Name It Uses at Dinner Parties and Graduations: Stenocarpus sinuatus.

Family: Proteaceae. Anyone notice this is the only attendee from the Protea family? Speaking of proteas, pay attention when you see its family name because the flowers are reliably funky.

Native to: Australia.

Height: 30 feet.

Growth Rate: 1 foot per year.

Lifespan: Up to 150 years. 

**

Red Flowering Gum

https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/corymbia-ficifolia

Fun Facts:

  • They are used for lumber, furniture, paper and fuel.
  • Their oils are used in perfumes and medicines.
  • The name “Gum” comes from the sticky resin exuded by some eucalyptus species. [32]
  • For the two of you who will read this, congratulations on noticing the only eucalyptus on this list.

Location(s) in Balboa Park: West Mesa – between Founders Plaza and Lawn Bowling Greens

Evergreen.

Alias: Scarlet Gum.

Fancy Latin Name It Uses at Dinner Parties and Graduations: Corymbia ficifolia, Eucalyptus ficifolia.

Family: Myrtaceae.

Native to: Western Australia

Height: 45 feet.

Growth Rate: 2 feet per year.

Lifespan: Up to 150 years. 

**

Balboa Park’s stunning and varied trees from all over the world provide colorful, structural beauty throughout the year. And we can still enjoy all this beauty while the Park has been largely closed.

If beauty is a battle, Balboa Park can kick butt with one arm tied behind its back. 

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!!

**

References

[1] Kathy Puplava and Paul Sirois, Trees and Gardens of Balboa Park, (San Diego, CA: Tecolote Publications, 2001), 17.

[2] Ann Birnie, “Naturalist Corner: Beauty and the Beast,” The Nature Kenya Newsletter, (Dec 03/Jan 04): 1.

[3] Chauncy I. Jerabek, “Trees for Color and Comment,” California Garden 51, no. 2, (Summer 1960): 15.

[4] Puplava, Trees and Gardens of Balboa Park, 30.

[5] Elizabeth McClintock, “Coral Trees in San Diego,” California Garden 72, no. 2, (March-April 1981): 49.

[6] Kathy Taylor de Murillo, The Good, the Bad, and the Pretty, California Garden 97, no. 3, (May-June 2006): 24.

[7] Skipper Cope, Selecting a Shade Tree, California Garden 76, no. 1, (January-February 1985): 21.

[8] George Tracy Hastings, Trees of Santa Monica (Santa Monica, Calif.: Friends of the Santa Monica Library, Committee for Trees of Santa Monica, 1976), 106.

[9] G L Nesom, “Key to native and cultivated species of Erythrina (Fabaceae) in the USA and comments on naturalization of E. crista-galli,” Phytoneuron (2015).

[10] Edalee Harwell, “Camellias, Flowers to the Orient, Bring Pleasure to the West,” California Garden 84, no. 1, (January-February 1993): 15.

[11] Chunxian Chen and William R. Okie, “Novel Peach Flower Types in a Segregating Population from ‘Helen Borchers’,” Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science 140, no.2, (March 2015): 173.

[12] Archives, “Ten Things You Should Know About Edward Killingsworth,” Dwell, (July-August 2007): 144.

[13] Puplava, Trees and Gardens of Balboa Park, 69.

[14] Kathy Taylor de Murillo, The Good, the Bad, and the Pretty, California Garden 97, no. 3 (May-June 2006): 24.

[15] Willow Zuchowski, Tropical plants of Costa Rica: a guide to native and exotic flora, (New York: Cornell University Press).

[16] Zuchowski, Tropical plants of Costa Rica: a guide to native and exotic flora.

[17] Zuchowski, Tropical plants of Costa Rica: a guide to native and exotic flora, 22.

[18] Puplava, Trees and Gardens of Balboa Park, 80.

[19] Anstice Carroll, The Dictionary of Wholesome Foods (New York: Marlowe & Co., 2006), 146.

[20] Jessica Fletcher, Trouble at High Tide (Obsidian, 2012), 111.

[21] Bob Shacochis, Swimming in the volcano: a novel, (New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1993), 256.

[22] Puplava, Trees and Gardens of Balboa Park, 80.

[23] Steve Brigham, “Birth of a Plantsman,” California Garden 92, no. 4, (July-August 2001).

[24] Elizabeth McClintock, “Coral Trees in San Diego,” California Garden 72, no. 2, (March-April 1981): 49.

[25] Puplava, Trees and Gardens of Balboa Park, 31.

[26] Conrad Faunteleroy Goldman, “Espaliers for Useful Beauty,” California Garden 53, no. 1, (February-March 1963): 18.

[27] Puplava, Trees and Gardens of Balboa Park, 53.

[28] Sarah A. Munks, “Diet of the Common Ringtail Possum Pseudocheirus Peregrinus in coastal tea-tree on Flinders Island,” The Tasmanian Naturalist 122, (2000): 37.

[29] McClintock, “Coral Trees in San Diego,” 50.

[30] Jane A. Minshall, “Garden Favorites from South Africa,” California Garden 48, no. 4, (Winter 1957): 53.

[31] Puplava, Trees and Gardens of Balboa Park, 12.

[32] Puplava, Trees and Gardens of Balboa Park, 35-36.

8 thoughts on “Balboa Park in Bloom: April, 2020

  1. The “floss silk” or “cotton ball” tree in Golden Hill, I thought was called the Kapok tree, and that the “cotton” was used for life savers, etc.. There is one in Balboa Park behind Spanish Village within the fenced train ride area, directly behind the small photo? place, or corner of Village Drive & the Spanish Village parking lot (NW side). Beautiful site–all of these tree photos! Thank-you!

    Like

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful reply! Floss Silk goes by a lot of nicknames, but I think Kapok is a different species. Thanks for the tip about the tree behind Spanish Village. I’ll hunt for it soon. So glad you enjoyed!

      Like

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