Mission District Commune + Spanish Chestnuts

Kaliflowr Commune - 23rd Street

Kaliflowr Commune - 23rd Street

On the south side of 23rd Street between Shotwell and Folsom is a fenced-in property (a white fence stretches most of the block between Shotwell and Folsom Streets). The owner of the property is the Kaliflower commune, a group with a colorful history that has been in existence since the 1960s, and in this location since 1974. The commune tends a small orchard over the fence, with citrus and avocado trees. (You often can see avocados hanging in the trees.) The group also planted the food-producing Spanish chestnuts (Castanea sativa) and almond trees (Prunus dulcis) fronting the property.   (The chestnuts and almonds are the only examples of each that I know of on San Francisco streets.)   And as of when I walked by earlier today someone had planted an artichoke in an empty tree basin.  

As I write this in late November, the sidewalk underfoot is thick with the prickly shells of the chestnuts, which had come out earlier in the fall.  

If you'd like to take a neighborhood tour where the Kaliflowr commune and these trees are included, check out the Mission Neighborhood Tour in my book

Female ginkgos at peak

1044 Shrader Street

1044 Shrader Street

Female ginkgos are at peak fruit drop now, dropping their malodorous fruit (smells like vomit - caused by the release of butyric acid, which also gives rancid butter its horrible smell). This photo was taken on the sidewalk outside 1044 Shrader (cross street Carl), in Cole Valley.   There aren't many places in San Francisco where you can find the female of the species, which is why I created a page in Trees of San Francisco listing all of the SF locations where I knew of female ginkgos.   Particularly if you have a pre-adolescent boy in the house, now is the time to experience one of nature's most unusual and interesting smells!  

No one really knows why ginkgos adapted to have smelly fruit, but the best guess is that it was attractive to an animal, which helped the plant disperse its seeds.  You hear stories of dogs, for example, eating ginkgo seeds.  But since ginkgos have been around for hundreds of millions of years, the interesting question is, are the things that adapted to disperse it still around? Or are they extinct? 

Kauri in Jefferson Square Park

Jefferson Square Park - Queensland kauri

Jefferson Square Park - Queensland kauri

Found a beautiful mature Queensland kauri (Agathis robusta) in Jefferson Square Park today - near corner of Turk and Gough.    It's the only one I know of outside of Golden Gate Park, and it's bigger and more mature than any in GGP.   Cool to be still finding amazing specimens out in the open in the City!   We need more of these in San Francisco, judging by how successful this tree is.

European Tour

London Plane in Rome

London Plane in Rome

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.