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 Februrary are:
- Evergreen Pear
- Saucer Magnolia
- South African Coral
- Sweet Michelia
- Brazilian Coral
- Bailey Acacia
- Pink Trumpet
- Red Flowering Gum
Native to Taiwan. Their name is a little misleading because they aren’t evergreen and their fruit isn’t edible (Trees and Gardens of Balboa Park, 2001, Puplava, K. and Sirios, P., p.71).
They line the perimeter of Plaza de Panama, the Park’s central square, and hang out on El Prado between Casa del Prado and the Natural History Museum. They can also be found around the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden.
Speaking of the Rose Garden, check out this post to learn more about its history and development:
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; east side of Balboa Drive south of Laurel.
South African Coral Tree
You can intuit their country of origin.
Location(s) in Balboa Park: San Diego Zoo Parking Lot; 6th and Juniper.
- It was listed as a “Garden Favorite” in California as far back as 1957.
Native of China and the Western Himalayas, where it is a valuable timber tree.
Their flowers’ smell is something you have to experience firsthand.
Locations: Federal Building (soon to be Comic-Con Museum); northwest of the intersection of Balboa Drive and Quince Street; just east of Nate’s Dog Park.
Are you enjoying this tour of the Park? Then check out this EXCLUSIVE post about one of Balboa Park’s most interesting characters and his detailed tour of Balboa Park’s flora… from over 80 years ago!!!
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.
- It’s also called a Parrot’s Beak due to the shape of its blooms.
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.
Coming in next month’s post…
Native to Australia, these evergreens rarely live more than 25 years. (Trees and Gardens of Balboa Park, 2001, Puplava, K. and Sirios, P., p.1).
These trees are also known as Golden Mimosa and Cootamundra Wattle trees.
Cootamundra Wattle might be the most Australian sounding tree name I’ve ever heard…
Locations: southwest corner of Lawn Bowling Greens; Organ Pavilion parking lot; Balboa Park Club (2144 Pan American Road West).
- The tree has religious significance to Buddhists.
- The flowers are cooked and pickled in some countries.
- The bark has been used medicinally.
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.
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.”
Description: Each rose-pink bugle has a yellow throat and ornate bell.
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.
Fancy Latin Name It Uses at Dinner Parties and Graduations: Stenocarpus sinuatus.
Location(s): Lawn Bowling Greens
These members of the protea family show their funky blooms for almost half the year.
Native to: Australia. Of course. The funkier, the more likely to come from down under.
The bark of this gorgeous Madagascar native was traditionally used to make clothing.
This stunning tree can be found at the northwest corner of the Federal Building (soon to be Comic-Con Museum).
Red Flowering Gum
Native of Western Australia, it produces fragrant leaves and interesting seed pods.
This tree stands between Founder’s Plaza and the lawn bowling greens, north of El Prado.
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.
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.