Balboa Park in Bloom: August

How would you like to tour a magnificent park 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 August 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.


Are you just LOVING the writing in this post?

Reader (i.e., You) : No.

Me: Well why on earth not?

You: Because I’m here to see pretty pictures of trees. I didn’t even think about your writing until now.

Me: Duly noted. For the record, if you enjoy psychological satire, then quit digging because you found gold!

You: You’re really overselling this.

Me: Fair point. Thanks for the feedback. Here’s a sample from my series, The Complete Guide to Misery.

You: Okay. But what if I’m just a San Diego local or tourist who’s not into all that craziness? What else have you got for me?

Me: Check out this sample of my guide to driving like a San Diegan:

You: Okay, okay. I got it. You think you’re funny. Can we get back to the trees, please?

Me: Sure thing. You’re gonna love this next one.


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!




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.

6 thoughts on “Balboa Park in Bloom: August

    1. Wife and I are going to Vancouver and Victoria Island for a big anniversary. Any recommendations for what to see? Any photos you’d like me to snap and put on a blog? Hope you are well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Knowing your interest in trees, in Vancouver you are bound to spend time in Stanley Park, more for the height of the trees than for the flowers. It’s definitely busier on weekends. On Vancouver Island you certainly know Butchart Gardens, it is one of my best memories, I only regret to have arrived there at the end of the day, more time would have been necessary. If you go out of Victoria, Cathedral Grove near Cameron Lake has some impressive trees. There is also a somewhat ‘wild’ dirt road between Cowichan Lake and Port Renfrew, an alternative to Highway 1.
        Enjoy your trip and happy anniversary!

        Liked by 1 person

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