Balboa Park in Bloom: January

How would you like to tour a magnificent urban forest without looking up from your phone?

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.

Join me in a look at this month’s flowering trees. You’ll learn a few fun facts about each and enjoy a couple surprises along the way.

The Balboa Park trees in bloom during January are:

  • Pink-Ball / Strawberry Snowball
  • South African Coral
  • Pink Trumpet
  • Orchid
  • Brazilian Coral
  • Firewheel
  • Saucer Magnolia


Pink-Ball or Strawberry Snowball Tree

The bark of this gorgeous Madagascar native was traditionally used to make clothing.

Location(s): Comic-con Museum (formerly the Federal Building and San Diego Hall of Champions)


South African Coral Tree

These deciduous stunners are native to Mozambique and coastal South Africa. The generic name comes from the Greek Erythros, for the color red.

Location(s): Zoo parking lot and entrance; southeast corner of 6th and Juniper Streets, east side of Balboa Drive north of Laurel Street.


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The Best of Balboa Park in Bloom

a collection that almost does the Park justice!


Pink Trumpet Tree

  • 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.
  • It has been studied in cancer research.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Brazilians call it the “Divine Tree.”

Location(s) in Balboa Park: Desert Garden; East side of 5th between Elm and Grape; 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


Coming next month. Guess Who?


Orchid Tree

This deciduous native of India and China produces pink, purple, white and variegated flowers. The tree carries common names, Mountain Ebony and Purple Camel’s Foot, reflective of the trees’ dark wood and leaf shape, respectively.

Locations: West side of Lawn Bowling Greens; West of Balboa Drive, just south of El Prado and Kate Sessions’ statue; East side of San Diego Zoo parking lot.

Native to: India and China.


Brazilian Coral Tree

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

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.

Native to: Brazil, Peru and Argentina.



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

Location(s): Lawn Bowling Greens

These members of the protea show their funky blooms for almost half the year.

Native to: Australia. Of course. The funkier, the more likely to come from down under.


Surprise! Also coming next month. Guess Who?


Saucer Magnolia

These natives of France are also called Chinese Magnolias (how does that work?) and come in a variety of colors and shades.

Location(s): northwest corner of Balboa Drive and Quince Street (near the Marston House).


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 provides an ever-changing display of color and form on a scale you won’t find anywhere else.

Different species are in bloom every month, so there are new trees to recognize year-round.




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.


Thanks for reading and stay tuned!!


4 thoughts on “Balboa Park in Bloom: January

  1. Thank you so much, again, for sharing these beautiful photos of the flowering trees in the Park and its environs, and your time and efforts in presenting them with relevant information.

    Liked by 1 person

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