Kauri in Jefferson Square Park

Found a beautiful mature Kauri (Agathis sp.) in Jefferson Square Park today - near corner of Turk and Gough.   Will supply a photo next time I'm there.   Not sure of the species yet - but I think it's the one from New Zealand (Agathis australis), which would be the only one I know of outside of the botanical garden.   Cool to be still finding amazing specimens out in the open in the City!

European Tour

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I just got back from three weeks in Southern France and Italy. Two takeaways:  first, the London plane trees look so much better then in San Francisco (see photo)!  And second, we have so much more species diversity then in most European cities. I think it's because urban trees in Europe are largely planted by the municipalities.    Some bureaucrat decides that elms are the way to go, and bang - hundreds of elm trees, one after another. In the city of Nimes, France, near where we stayed, the entire city was planted with Chinese hackberries.  And in Rome, it seemed like the entire city had only three or four species.  It does create architectural unity, I guess - but I prefer our diverse tree anarchy. 

Orange Tree in San Francisco?

916-18 Anza Street

916-18 Anza Street

I was walking on Anza Street near Arguello recently, and saw something I don't think I've ever seen in San Francisco - a mature orange tree.  Actually bearing fruit.   We have plenty of Meyer lemons, and orange trees aren't unusual in the warmer suburbs of the north and east bay and the Peninsula, but I don't ever remember seeing one in SF.   And in the Richmond, no less - one of our chillier neighborhoods.   It was in a yard over a fence, so I can't be 100% sure, but if you're curious, go to 916-918 Anza (very close to the Columbarium), and check out the tree over the fence!

Mutant in Bloom

I'm often asked about my favorite tree.  Not the type of tree I like most, but my favorite individual tree in San Francisco. This one, at 1221 Stanyan Street in Cole Valley, is my personal number one - and it's just coming into bloom as I write.

1221 Stanyan Street

1221 Stanyan Street

For starters, it's one of the city’s best specimens of New Zealand Christmas tree (Metrosideros excelsa), popular for its showy red bottlebrush flowers. And indeed, all of the many hundreds of New Zealand Christmas trees on San Francisco’s streets have red flowers — except for this one, at the corner of Stanyan and 17th Streets.  Every May and June, that tree pops with spectacular yellow flowers.

How did the tree end up with yellow flowers? The story goes back to Victor Reiter, a founder of the California Horticultural Society, and San Francisco’s most famous plantsman from the 1940s until his death in 1986 (more about Reiter, and his still-surviving garden behind Stanyan Street, in my book).  In 1940, there was a natural mutation of the species on tiny Motiti Island in New Zealand, and Reiter was one of the first Californians to obtain a cutting. As the Reiter family lived in several homes in a three-block stretch of Stanyan Street, they planted the curiosity in front of their 1221 Stanyan address—still occupied today by a family member. And more than 70 years later, the tree is thriving. It’s a beautiful mutant with an amazing history and pedigree—and my favorite tree in the City.