Balboa Park in Bloom: August, 2020

If you’re like many people these days, you’re still partly sheltered-in-place, tired of streaming EVERYTHING and looking for something to do besides your essential job.

And you’d really like to make up for those travel plans you cancelled.

Why not tour the largest urban park in the United States without leaving your living room?

Balboa Park contains thousands of beautiful trees from around the world. Towering giants and quirky flora from Australia, South and Central America, South Africa, India, and China thrive in San Diego’s Mediterranean climate.

The magnificent diversity is such that different species are in bloom every month, so there are new trees to recognize year-round.

Join me in a look at Balboa Park’s flowering trees. You’ll learn a few fun facts about each and get some surprises along the way.

The Balboa Park trees in bloom, August 2020 are:

  • Chinese Flame
  • Brazilian Butterfly
  • African Tulip
  • Floss Silk
  • Strawberry
  • Mexican Palo Verde
  • Crepe Myrtle
  • Gold Medallion
  • Orchid
  • Beestill
  • Firewheel
  • Markhamia


Chinese Flame

Location(s) in Balboa Park: Morley Field (pictured); Marston Point; El Prado

  • Native of Asia
  • Deciduous
  • Alias: Chinese Lantern Tree


Brazilian Butterfly

Location(s) in Balboa Park: San Diego Junior Theatre

  • Native of Brazil.
  • Partly Deciduous
  • Alias: Brazilian Orchid Tree
  • This member of the Orchid Tree family has been used to treat diabetes.


African Tulip

Location(s) in Balboa Park: Museum of Natural History; 28th and Beech; International Houses; Marston Point; Morley Field

  • Native of Tropical Africa.
  • Partly Deciduous (leafless)
  • Its flowers have been described as “blazing orange-red” and “sunset-colored, vaguely arachnoid blooms.”

Also known as Kibobakasi, Nandi Flame, and Flame of the Forest, the African Tulip Tree is from Tropical Africa (i.e., West and Central Africa) and “has great mystical significance to some native peoples. The flowers and wood are used in ceremonies by healers and leaders. The leaves, bark, and flowers are used by tribal healers for skin diseases and internal disorders.” (Puplava, p.78).


Floss Silk

Location(s) in Balboa Park: Golden Hill Park at 26th Street; Desert Garden; Casa del Prado; Nate’s Point Dog Park

  • Native of Brazil and Argentina, or the Tropical and subtropical forests of South America, depending on who you ask.
  • Deciduous
  • Aliases: Cotton Ball Tree. Chorisia speciosa.

Floss silk trees produce kapok, commercially-used to stuff mattresses and cushions, in softball-sized “cotton puffs.”

The mental health counselor in me appreciates clear, unambiguous boundaries. Like this specimen between the Desert and Rose Gardens, many floss silk trees make it clear how they feel about any attempt to climb their trunk.



Location(s) in Balboa Park: Alcazar Garden

  • Native of Mediterranean, Ireland
  • Evergreen
  • Alias: Marina Madrone

“Why is it named a Strawberry Tree?”

Glad you asked. Check out its fruit.


Mexican Palo Verde

Location(s) in Balboa Park: Desert Garden; Balboa Park Club.

  • Native of Southwestern United States and Mexico.
  • Deciduous (leafless)
  • Aliases: Jerusalem Thorn.

Hanging out with some prickly pear cactus


Crepe Myrtle

Location(s) in Balboa Park: Plaza de Panama; Old Globe; Lawn Bowling Greens; Marston Gardens.

  • Native of China.
  • Deciduous (leafless)
  • Aliases: Crape Myrtle; Pride of India; Queen of Flowers.
  • Varieties: Glendora White, Near East, Seminole and Watermelon Red.


Gold Medallion

Location(s) in Balboa Park: Morley Field Parking Lot; Lawn Bowling Greens.

  • Native of Brazil
  • Partly Deciduous (leafless)
  • This is a common street tree around San Diego.



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

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


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



Location(s) in Balboa Park: Lawn Bowling Greens; Prado Restaurant lawn; Old Globe Way; International Houses.

  • Native of Mexico and Central America.
  • Evergreen.
  • Aliases: Yellow Oleander; Lucky Nut.



Location(s) in Balboa Park: Lawn Bowling Greens

  • Native of Australia
  • Evergreen
  • The funkiest “flowers” I’ve seen in the Park.



Location(s) in Balboa Park: Museum of Natural History; Former Hall of Champions; in front of a beautiful old Administration Building in a back corner that you’ll never find unless you’re intensely curious about every square foot of the Park.. .

  • Native of Tropical Africa.
  • Evergreen.
  • Aliases: Gold Markhamia; Yellow Bell Bean Tree.


Fascinating and funky trees have been a feature of Balboa Park ever since 1892, when Kate Sessions leased space along 6th Avenue for her nursery business. The panoply of flora from around the world provide an ever-changing display of color and form on a scale you won’t find anywhere else.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!


See prior months’ Balboa Park in Bloom posts here!




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

3. Too many issues of California Garden magazine to list and still enjoy my day. Contact me for details.

14 thoughts on “Balboa Park in Bloom: August, 2020

  1. Thank you so much for sharing the beautiful photos and your knowledge and expertise of those flowering trees in Balboa Park – very much appreciated – from a new San Diegan.


  2. Beautiful… thank you for opening my eyes to all the unique blooms so close to home. I love the Floss Silk trees the flowers are gorgeous! And when the cotton balls appear they remind me of Dr Seuss stories. I know what I’m doing this weekend.


    1. So glad you enjoyed it! The Floss Silks reminded me of Dr. Seuss, too. Hope you enjoy your visit this weekend!


  3. Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos, you took me back to a place I long to visit again, I so love Balboa Park – the architecture, trees and plants are all majestic and magical. Hopefully I can get back down to San Diego soon.


    1. We share that fondness for the Park’s gorgeous architecture and trees. So glad the blog helped you reconnect with that joy.


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