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2022 April 14

Secret Walks: Significant Trees

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My wife and I did not do a walk in the Secret Walks series on April 2, and on April 3 we just walked to and from the Colligan Theater to see the new play Remains to be Seen.  The acting was good (though the parts had clearly been written for some of the specific actors), but the script was weak—the jokes were predictable and the attempts at deeper emotional appeal fell a bit flat.  The audience liked it (over half rose for a standing ovation), but that says more about the uncritical nature of Santa Cruz’s Sunday matinee audience than anything else.

On Saturday April 9, we decided to do a short walk, trying to use the city’s self-guided Downtwon Significant Tree Walk, which lists, gives photos of, and provides interesting information on 25 trees, but lacks a map or clear directions.


The route starts at City Hall, down Church, then up Cedar Street, and Mission Street to Mission Plaza (the red line). It is then supposed to go down Green Street (the orange line), but we got confused and went back down Mission, Center, and Chestnut, before we figured out that the trees we were missing might be on Green (the purple line). The route continues down Chestnut to Walnut, ending at Calvary Episcopal Church (the green line). I added a return to City Hall to this map, but in reality we started from home and went to Mission Hill Creamery for ice cream after the walk, before heading home. Click for higher-resolution map

The drawn route is about 1.42 miles, but our detour added about 0.25 miles to that. With the walk for ice cream and to and from home, the total distance was about 4.1 miles.


The Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis) at City Hall has a rather curved base—probably because it was planted too close to the building.


The cockspur coral tree(Erythrina crista-galli) has gotten a lot bigger since the city put out the guide to downtown trees.


There was a house finch posing on the top of the cockspur coral, and I managed to get a decent shot of it.


The flowers of the cockspur coral are rather interesting shapes.


The bark of the floss silk tree (Ceiba speciosa) has nice spikes, though I think that the tree on the other wing of City Hall has nicer spikes than the one they picked out for their photos. This is from the tree they picked.


Here is the floss silk tree viewed from across the street in front of the Civic Auditorium.


The next tree on the list is a jacaranda, but it is not very impressive when not in bloom.


In front of the Civic Auditorium is a Japanese cryptomeria (Cryptomeria japonica).


They also called out this flowering cherry, though it was not in bloom.


Well, there were a few sad blossoms left on the tree.


Also in front of the Civic Auditorium is this fine owl nesting box, though I have no evidence that any birds have ever nested in it.


Next to the owl box was a cherry tree that still had exuberant blossoms, though it was not called out on the city’s list.


Here is the whole of the unlisted cherry tree.


The city listing had this angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia x candida) next, though it is unimpressive when not in bloom. There are a lot of angel’s trumpets around town, and this specimen is not one of the best.


Across the street by the Greek orthodox church is a lily of the valley tree (Crinodendron patagua).


The leaves of the lily of the valley tree look a bit like oak leaves.


In the CruzIO parking lot is a large Magnolia grandiflora. I’m not fond of these trees, as they drop stiff waxy leaves that clog drain grates, and I find the smell of the flowers slightly unpleasant. I prefer magnolias with softer leaves and a shorter blooming season (there are many magnolias of different types around town).

There is supposed to be a katsura tree on the walk between the magnolia and the gingkos, but we were unable to find it—we could not even figure out where it would have been from the photo in the city handout, as we could not identify the buildings either. Perhaps someone with a better memory of Santa Cruz downtown buildings or trees could help us out here.


The gingko trees on Cedar Street were just coming into leaf.


The black walnut in the parking lot had been slated for removal a decade or more ago, but pruning it way back and letting the crown regrow saved the tree.


The red oaks (Quercus rubra) in front of the parking garage provide some welcome shade at the entrance to the walkway.


The red-oak leaves make a nice contrast with the sky.


This orange flowering gum (Corymbia ficifolia) is a little hard to identify without the orange flowers.


The newly built condos clearly took away about a quarter of the tree canopy.


The seed pods of the orange flowering gum have some interesting color patterns.


On the top of the hill, in the Santa Cruz Mission state park, is a bunya-bunya (Araucaria bidwillii).


I used my zoom lens to get a more detailed view of the bunya-bunya leaves, without having to go around to the entrance to the state park.


The Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chiliensis) is also in the state park.


This date palm (Phoenix dactilifera) is in Mission Plaza park.


I’m not sure whether this linden (Tilia spp.) is dead or just hasn’t leafed out yet this spring.


Either way, the trunk has an interesting texture.


Also in Mission Plaza is this dawn redwood (Metaequoia glyptostroboides), which is not a California native, but which seems to do well here.


The copper beech (Fagus sylvatica ’Atropuncea’) on Cross Street was difficult for us to find.


The smooth bark and colored leaves are distinctive for the copper beech, and they make a nice display against the sky.


On the same property on Green Street as the copper beech is this deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara).


The deodar cedar needles in close-up.


This coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) on Union Street is the locally endemic redwood—they get a bit big for city trees.


This star/Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) is visible from Chestnut, but is really on Rincon by the apartment building there.


I like the way that this coast redwood is flowing over the sidewalk, so I photographed it, even though it isn’t called out on the city list.


These London plane trees (Platanus x hispanica (acerifolia)) are on Walnut Street. (Sorry—no walnut trees there, and no chestnuts on Chestnut Street either—in fact, most of the tree-named streets downtown don’t have the trees they are named after.) The plane trees in town are all rather sickly with anthracnose and powdery mildew, but they survive—we have a couple in our yard too, planted by the previous owners. Neither my wife nor I care much for them.


The last tree on the last was a douglas fir, but it was taken out a few years ago—that green lawn to the left of the church is where it used to be.

After the missing douglas fir, we went to Mission Hill Coffee and Creamery for ice cream. I ordered two scoops, but as I was handing my wife her cone, the top scoop rolled off my cone and landed on the sidewalk, so I ended up with only the fig-goat cheese ice cream, and not the green tea ice cream as well.


This wisteria across California Street from the high school is not part of the route, but it is a listed “heritage tree” by the city, and it is just coming to the end of its blooming season.

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