Tag Archives: Stanford University trees

Trees for Shade, Wildlife and the Future

We don’t plant enough trees. Everyone wants an instant garden but nature doesn’t work that way. When you look out from your windows into your landscaping what catches your eye first? I’ll bet the most majestic and inspiring sight in your garden is probably a tree that frames your house giving it a sense of permanence, welcoming you home and providing a haven for songbirds that serenade you on a summer day.

Japanese maple- Stanford campus

Large or small, trees make the world go round. They produce oxygen and act as a giant filter that cleans the air we breathe. A mature leafy tree produces as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year.

Trees clean the soil by absorbing dangerous chemicals and other pollutants that have entered the soil. They can either store the harmful pollutants or actually change the them into a less harmful form. Trees can filter sewage and clean the water that runs off into our streams. They can absorb and lock away carbon dioxide as wood so it is not available as greenhouse gasses.

If you live near a busy street trees can muffle the noise almost as effectively as a stone wall. They also act as a windbreak during windy and cold seasons reducing the drying effect of the wind and keeping it from blowing precious topsoil away.

Gingko biloba

Trees slow storm water runoff which helps recharge our aquifers. On top of all the beneficial things trees do for us they provide shade and keep us cool in the summer. In the winter they break up the wind reducing heating costs. Trees increase property values. If you’ve been thinking about adding a few trees to your own property here are some of my favorites. Some don’t get enough recognition others are classics. All make great additions to the garden.

I like Forest Pansy redbud for its stunning red foliage, Sango Kaku Japanese maple for its year round interest, Strawberry tree, and Tristania laurina Elegant. Evergreen Dogwood, Cornus capitata, is also known as Himalayan flowering dogwood lives up to its name in every respect. This variety is slow growing reaching 20 ft tall in sun or partial shade after about 25 years. After flowering, red fruit provides a treat for the birds.

To make your garden more compelling also consider planting a Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn gold’ or Amelanchier ‘Autumn Brilliance’. Also called Apple Serviceberry it has edible small fruits you can use in jam and grows fast. Chinese Fringe Tree has magnificent clusters of fragrant, fringe-like blooms and is a terrific accent for small yards.

Swan Hill olive

We are all familiar with the huge flowers in late winter of the Saucer magnolia. This beautiful tree also makes a good lawn tree. Oklahoma redbud takes heat and drought but can also tolerate regular garden watering. Chitalalpa ‘Pink Dawn’ grows 12 feet in three years then grows more slowly to 25 feet with a 25 foot spread. It’s pink trumpet shaped flowers are a welcome sight during the summer. Crape myrtle also blooms at the same time providing your garden with color when you’re outdoors the most.

‘Swan Hill’ olive produces no pollen or fruit, takes drought conditions and casts light shade. Chinese pistache provides brilliant fall color growing to 35 feet by 30 feet wide.

Plant a tree for yourself and for future generations.

 

Trees of Stanford University

Flame_treeThe other day I visited the campus of Stanford University to view something from their archives. The campus is beautiful. Flowering trees in bloom every where you look. I was told by a colleague that Stanford has a huge collection of trees some planted back in the late 1880’s when the university was first built and the landscaping installed. The designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, the famed landscape architect also created New York’s Central Park. I wanted to find a mature specimen of a California native, the Catalina Ironwood, which is listed in their Encyclopedia of Stanford Trees, Shrubs and Vines.

The campus is huge and with so many areas to explore I missed the grove of Ironwood. There are over 400 species, 150 genera and 60 families which total 27,000+ individual trees growing on the central campus. Senator Leland Stanford vowed that no healthy oak be cut down and even today the dominant tree on campus is the coast live oak. There has been a loss of diversity from the original tree and shrub plantings of the 1880’s and 1890’s, which is well documented for conifers. Still the sheer number and variety of trees is impressive.

In the main quad by the Memorial Church and the grounds surrounding the Music library and the Green library I found dozens of trees which were all surveyed and named on a map I found online. It was fun to locate each tree.

I’m always on the lookout for mature tree specimens to photograph. When I recommend a tree to be included in a design I like to be able to share the image of what the tree will look like in the future. Trees anchor your house to the land. They are more than just a pretty face to look at from the kitchen window. They provide habitat, food and shelter to birds as well as giving shade in the summer. Some of the trees I saw on the Stanford campus may not be suitable for all gardens but they are interesting to learn about. Here are a few of the highlights of my campus botanical adventure.

In the main quad there are 8 circular planting beds containing over 80 individual trees. One that I was attracted to because of its unusual trunk and branching structure was the Flame tree or brachychiton acerifolius. Although not yet in bloom it will soon be covered with scarlet bells. I learned from the campus encyclopedia that this tree was planted in 1998 after the original specimen died. That flame tree, planted in 1891, was famous for the brilliant display it put on in May and June, covering the ground with a mantle of red bells. The pod-like fruits contain masses of irritating bristles but also nutritious yellow seeds that were eaten by the Aborigines after toasting.

The next tree that caught my eye had such formidable thorns that I wondered where it grew naturally. Floss-Silk_treeHow could it come by the pretty name, Floss Silk tree, with those deadly spines? I learned in September this tree redeems itself with masses of showy pinkish-white flowers so numerous they hide the foliage. Hummingbirds enjoy the nectar of the flowers which are used in Brazil as threads in upholstery. But the most distinctive feature of the tree is the wicked looking array of stout spines that crowd the trunk and protrude by an inch or more. Who knows why they evolved this way? The fruit of the Floss Silk tree is very large and on ripening the pods open to expose masses of white cottony kapok-like material that perhaps acts as a barrier to rats seeking the tiny seeds. Is it rats that the trees are hoping to deter by growing the huge spines?

Red_mulberryRedwoods, giant sequoia and Bristlecone pine live a long time but there’s something impressive about an ornamental tree that is over 100 years old. Planted in 1889, the trunk of the Red Mulberry tree growing in the quad has attained great character and girth. Mulberry leaves are the food of the silkworm and if you grow your own silkworms you can make silk. One silkworm produces about half a mile of incredibly strong monofilament to make its cocoon. The pale berries of the red mulberry are not as good to eat as the black mulberry but both grow quickly to provide shade for your home or patio.

A tree planted for beauty shade, habitat and posterity is a gift to all.