Balboa Park in Bloom: October

How would you like to tour one of the United States’ most magnificent urban parks 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 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 the month of October are:

  • Firewheel
  • Chinese Flame
  • Strawberry
  • Beestill
  • African Tulip



Location(s) in Balboa Park: Lawn Bowling Greens

These same Firewheel trees were in bloom six months ago. Want proof? Check out this post from March, 2020.

  • Native of Australia
  • Evergreen
  • The funkiest “flowers” I’ve ever seen.


Chinese Flame

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

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

This time of year the leaves’ color shifts from fiery red to dull pink. Like a flame going to embers…


A philosophical review…

Some of you, or at least my one regular reader (“Hi Mom!”), may have asked yourselves, “What does it take for a tree to qualify as ‘in bloom’ on this post?”

For the few lovers of ontological puzzles who haven’t already jumped ahead to the next picture, my criteria is: at least one specimen of the tree needs to be flowering or fruiting for at least two-thirds of the month, with sufficient quality and beauty that, if a friend of mine wanted a tour of Balboa Park, I’d make it a point to show off the tree.



Location(s) in Balboa Park: Alcazar Garden

  • Native of Ireland
  • Evergreen
  • Alias: Marina Madrone

“Why is it named ‘Strawberry’ Tree?”

Glad you asked. Check out its fruit.



Location(s) in Balboa Park: Prado Restaurant lawn.

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


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).


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.

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: October

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