Balboa Park in Bloom: July

Why not tour the largest urban park in the United States 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.

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 during July are:

  • African Tulip
  • Floss Silk
  • Sweet Acacia
  • Crepe Myrtle
  • Gold Medallion
  • Cockspur Coral
  • Beestill
  • Mexican Palo Verde
  • Magnolia
  • Markhamia


African Tulip

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

  • 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

  • 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.


Sweet Acacia

Location(s) in Balboa Park: Desert Garden

  • Native of Mexico and Central America.
  • Partly Deciduous (leafless)
  • Alias: Mealy Wattle
  • Reportedly the first species of Acacia to be introduced to California from Australia.


Crepe Myrtle

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

  • 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.


Cockspur Coral

Location(s) in Balboa Park: Model Railroad Museum parking lot.

  • Native of South America.
  • Partly Deciduous (leafless).
  • Aliases: Crybaby Tree; Fireman’s Cap Tree.



Location(s) in Balboa Park: Lawn Bowling Greens; Prado Restaurant lawn.

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



The funkiest cactus ever. Is it just me or does the work of Dr. Seuss, aka Ted Geisel, suddenly make sense?

Highlights from the Inez Grant Parker Rose Garden:

And the Lily Pond is still in bloom, too.

A grove of enormous and funky Bunya-bunya trees:

Want to learn more about these magnificent beasts? Check out this fun and informative guide:

Mexican Palo Verde

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

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



Location(s) in Balboa Park: West of Balboa Drive from Quince to Grape Streets; Morley Field; Palm Canyon.

  • Native of Southeastern United States.
  • Evergreen.
  • Aliases: Southern Magnolia; Bull Bay.
  • It is widely planted throughout California and one of the most widely grown ornamental trees on Earth.
  • Magnolias and their close ancestors were around in the Cretaceous period (142 to 65 million years ago). 
  • These flowers evolved prior to butterflies and bees and were originally pollinated by beetles and other ancient insects.
  • The chemistry of this very primitive plant has been studied extensively, particularly the alkaloids.

Two of the Balboa Park’s current Magnolia trees were mentioned “by name” in a 1938 written guide of Balboa Park’s plant life.

To learn more about the octogenarian tour and its eccentric author, check out my exclusive post here:



Location(s) in Balboa Park: Museum of Natural History; Former Hall of Champions.

  • 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!




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 directly for details.

4 thoughts on “Balboa Park in Bloom: July

  1. Thanks again for this colourful review, I particularly noticed the effect of the Gold Medallion. Every time I am overwhelmed by all these tree names, I know so few of them by comparison.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you again for the nice comments. I moved to San Diego 6 years ago and was also overwhelmed with all the different trees. Decided to start writing Balboa Park in Bloom to give myself a reason to learn more about them.

      Liked by 1 person

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