Tree of the Month Archive

August Tree of the Month

Lagerstroemia indica – crape myrtle, also spelled crepe myrtle
Family: Lythraceae

The crape myrtle is a small to medium size deciduous tree, native to China, Japan and the Indian subcontinent and was introduced to Europe in 1759 from China. In the sixties, several different hybrids of this tree were developed at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington D.C.

The tree can reach a height of 20 to 30 feet tall with a 10 to 20 feet spread. The shape of the crown varies depending on the cultivar. The trunk is very smooth with an exfoliate thin bark exposing a surface underneath with blotches of tan, cinnamon, gray and pink colors. Leaves are opposite, glossy green and oval, turning yellow, red and orange in the fall prior to dropping off.

In late summer when few other trees are blooming, the crape myrtle is covered with showy clusters of cone shaped flowers with crinkled petals that resemble crepe-paper. The flowers come in a wide range of colors including brilliant shades of pink, violet, salmon, red and white. The crape myrtle is also considered one of the longest blooming trees anywhere. Woody brown seed capsules resembling little flowers themselves appear on the tree branches after the blooming period.

The crape myrtle prefers a sunny location and can do well in any type of soil including clay. It requires deep watering when young but less frequently as the tree matures making it moderately drought tolerant.

The crape myrtle is not suitable for coastal and foggy areas as this tends to cause mildew. The same problem occurs if the tree is planted in the shade. The following hybrids which were all developed at the National Arboretum:  Arapaho with red flowers, Natchez with pure while flowers, Tuscarora with coral/pink flowers and the Muskogee with lilac flowers are all considered mildew resistant.

The crape myrtle is a very easy tree to grow. It requires pruning only for shaping or clearance when planted as a street tree and it has a non-aggressive root system making it a good candidate for very narrow parkways. Also, it is suitable under power lines.

The crape myrtle does well when planted in a grouping in one’s garden, in parks as a multi trunk, a shrub, or trained as a single trunk/standard form when used as a street tree. The huge display of flowers, the attractive bark and the stunning foliage colors in the fall make the crape myrtle attractive year-around and a prized addition to any landscape. The only thing missing for me is I would love to see a plant breeder come up with a yellow crape myrtle!

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy

July Tree of the Month

Cassia leptophylla – gold medallion tree
Family: Fabaceae

The gold medallion tree is native to the tropical forests of southern Brazil.

This is a small to medium size evergreen tree but can become deciduous when temperatures are in the 25-30°F range. The tree can reach a height of 20 to 30 feet with an open crown and a 25-30 feet wide spreading canopy. Its branches are droopy with dense dark green foliage consisting of pinnately divided leaves with 1-2” long leaflets making it a good shade tree. The trunk is gray-brown and furrowed.

In the summer, this gorgeous looking tree is covered with clusters of very large flowers with each resembling a bouquet that tends to hang on the tree for a long time. The flowers are bright yellow, showy and fragrant. The bees and butterflies love them.

In the fall after the tree is finished flowering, long, thin bean-like seed pods up to 2 feet long dangle from the tree. The pods are green at first turning brown and woody later. The seeds are non-edible.

The tree does not require much maintenance but would benefit from a good pruning when young to help it develop a strong trunk and branches as well as for sidewalk clearance especially when planted as a street tree. The tree is considered drought tolerant and is fast growing. It does better in the sun and in a well-drained soil. At the present there are no known serious diseases affecting this tree and damage to sidewalks from this tree’s roots is very low.

This tree is a good candidate for residential landscaping, as a street tree, or in a park. We have the Los Angeles County Arboretum to thank for introducing it in 1958. I am noticing this tree everywhere I go now, and there is a good reason for that as when in bloom this spectacular looking tree brings a smile to everyone’s face and shouts “Hello Sunshine”.

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy

June Tree of the Month

Calodendrum capense, Cape Chestnut
Native to the Cape region of South Africa and is a member of the Rutaceae family.

The Cape chestnut is a small to medium size slow growing tree with a dense rounded canopy and can reach a height of 20 to 40 feet tall and 25 to 40 feet wide. The tree is considered evergreen and it produces lots of shade but is prone to being briefly deciduous in colder weather.

The trunk is smooth, light to dark grey in color. The leaves are ovate, glossy dark green, simple not serrated, turning gold in the fall. When crushed the leaves release a lemon/pine scent.

In the late spring to early summer the crown and all its leaves get completely covered with clusters of delicate flowers each having five petals with thin filaments that protrude from the center of the flowers.

In the fall, and after all the blooms are gone, five-lobed capsules appear on the tree, they are green with a warty surface turning brown before opening like a flower exposing small black seeds. An oil known as Yangu oil is extracted from these seeds and is used in many skin and hair products throughout Africa.

The tree does better in full sun, moist but well drained soil, and requires a moderate amount of water. The roots of this tree are non-aggressive making it a good candidate for a street tree. It also adds a spectacular focal point to any garden or a park.

Presently this tree is not prone to any pests or diseases that we know of.

In Greek the word Kalos means “beautiful” and the word dendron means a “tree” thus “Beautiful Tree”. The word capense means “from the cape” in Latin. In my opinion the Cape chestnut tree more than lives up to the meaning of its name!

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy

May Tree of the Month

Parkinsonia florida – blue palo verde
Synonyms: Cercidium floridum

This tree belongs to the Fabaceae family and is native to southeastern California, central and southern Arizona where it is considered the official State tree and in northwestern Mexico where its name means “green stick” in Spanish.

The blue palo verde is a moderate to fast growing small to medium size deciduous tree, 20 to 30 feet tall and about 20 to 25 feet wide with a rounded canopy with arching branches. The leaves are light green, alternate and bipinnately compound.

The trunk on young trees is chartreuse green turning grayish and scaly as the trees matures, the branches are green and smooth making the tree interesting to look at throughout the year even when it is leafless and not in bloom.

In late spring and into the summer with the leaves absent, the tree produces a spectacular display of bright yellow flowers with tiny red splotches in the center of them. The flowers are lightly scented. The fruit or pods as they are called appear in the fall, are light green, very small and contain seeds in them. The pods are a good source of food for birds and the flowers are a magnet for honey bees.

This is considered a very tough tree, does better in full sun but can tolerate some partial shade, is very drought tolerant and prefers a well-drained soil. The tree is very easy to grow and care for and if needed prune lightly in the summer. This tree is a good candidate for planting under the power lines and the damage to sidewalks from its roots is very low.

Pests to look out for are wood borers, spider mites and root rot. Having said that, if you keep your tree healthy and not over water it, you don’t need to worry too much as pests seem to attack stressed trees.

This is a gorgeous tree when in bloom, can be grown as a single or multi trunk form in parks, parking lots and adds a beautiful focal point to one’s garden complementing other drought tolerant plants.

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy

April Tree of the Month

Chionanthus retusus – Chinese Fringe Tree
Family Oleaceae
The name is derived from the Greek words Chion and anthus meaning snow and flower.
Origin: Native to Eastern and Central China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

The Chinese fringe tree is a deciduous medium size flowering tree, grows between 20 to 25 feet tall and about 20 feet wide. The canopy is oval shape with dark green glossy leaves that turn to a golden yellow before they drop in the fall.

The bark is a grayish-brown color, scaly when the tree is young, becoming furrowed and showing a reddish color in the fissures as the tree matures.

The tree blooms from spring to early summer with the whole canopy covered with clusters of snow-white fragrant fringe-like flowers. These flowers are larger on the male variety. However, only female trees produce 1/2” to 3/4” size fruit that is dark purple and resembles grapes. The fruit is a good source of food for birds and the flowers attract many other types of pollinators.

The tree is very easy to grow, does not require much care, adapts to many soil types, prefers sun but can tolerate partial shade and requires moderate watering. If you need to prune for shaping, do that after the tree is done flowering in order to allow the buds for next year’s blooming cycle to develop on the new branches. The tree is a good candidate for planting under power lines and in narrow parkways.

At the present there are no known serious diseases or pest problems. However, the tree can become susceptible to root problems if it is overwatered, and can also get infected with spider mites and scale both of which are easily controlled.

This tree is so spectacular when in bloom it makes for an excellent specimen in one’s garden either as a single or multi trunk form as well as in a park and even as a street tree as a single trunk form. In my opinion this gorgeous tree is underutilized and I would love to see us plant more of it.

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy

March Tree of the Month

Evergreen Pear, Pyrus kawakamii

This tree belongs to Rosaceae family and is native to China and Taiwan. It is considered a small to medium size evergreen tree and grows up to 30 feet tall with a dense umbrella shaped canopy which provides a lot of shade. The trunk is a charcoal gray color exhibiting a deeply cracked darker bark with age.

The leaves are oval and start glossy green with serrated edges turning to a spectacular shade of yellow, orange and bright red before dropping to the ground in the fall. For this reason, some people might consider this tree semi-deciduous.

From January to March the tree is covered with masses of small dazzling white blossoms that attract many pollinators such as bees and birds that love to eat the round and very small fruit (as seen in one of the photos) that appears in the spring. With the slightest breeze the dainty blossom petals find themselves cascading to the ground like snowflakes. If necessary, prune lightly to shape the canopy. Over pruning results in fewer blooms. This is a good candidate for planting under power lines.

This tree performs better when planted in full sun and in a well-drained soil but can withstand partial-shade. When young, the tree requires moderate watering becoming more drought tolerant with age.

The evergreen pear is generally considered pest free but can be susceptible to aphids, fire blight and whiteflies which can easily be controlled with available treatments. So, don’t let this discourage you from planting it as its beauty outweighs the chance it might be affected with one of these problems.

Throughout the year this is a very stunning looking tree. It makes for a good street tree or in one’s garden. Besides planting a single trunk form you can also choose to grow it as an espalier along a wall.

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy

February Tree of the Month

Australian Willow, Geijera parviflora
Family: Rutaceae

The Australian willow is native to the dry interior areas of eastern Australia. It is evergreen and considered a medium size tree with moderate growth reaching 30 to 35 feet tall and a spread of 20 to 30 feet wide. The canopy is dense, oval with a definite weeping form similar to that of a true willow.

The trunk/bark of the tree is smooth and light gray when young becoming dark gray furrowed as the tree matures.  The leaves are olive-green color, slender, 4 to 6” long and droop down and are aromatic when crushed.

From November to late spring the tree is covered with clusters of fragrant creamy white flowers, with a scent similar to that of the citrus tree flowers. These small flowers are known to attract a wide range of birds and bees.

The Australian willow is a very hardy tree, tolerates many soil conditions, is considered drought tolerant and can grow both in the sun and partial shade.  The tree roots grow deep down, are non-invasive and do not cause any sidewalk damage. The tree has no known pests or disease problems and requires very little maintenance.  When young this tree can benefit from light pruning to help form a strong structure and some branch clearance when planted as a street tree.

The Australian willow is a beautiful shade tree and an excellent choice for parking lot islands, parks, as a street tree and in your garden.  You can find several examples of this tree planted by Pasadena Beautiful Foundation, thriving at Victory Park to the left of the Paloma Street parking lot entrance.

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy

January Tree of the Month

Ginkgo biloba – also called maidenhair tree
Family: Ginkgoaceae
Origin: Southeastern China

This is a tall deciduous tree, slow growing, it can reach a height of 50 to 80 feet and a spread from 25 to 40 feet. When the tree is young the trunk bark is light gray becoming darker with irregular furrows as the tree matures. The leaves are flat and fan shaped. They start bright green in the summer turning to yellow in the fall before dropping like brilliant golden snowflakes carpeting the ground underneath. It is a beautiful sight to see.

The ginkgo flowers are unnoticeable and fragrant. The female variety produces fruit that looks like small plums (as seen in one of the attached pictures) that drop when ripe and has a foul smell when crushed by people walking on it. It can also cause a slip hazard. To avoid this nuisance, make sure you plant only male grafted cultivars. The fruit is however considered a delicacy in the Orient where the inside seed is roasted before it is consumed.

The Ginkgo adapts to any soil conditions, withstands air pollution, is drought tolerant, grows in partial shade but does better in full sun and is not recommended underneath power lines.

The Ginkgo can be found as a street tree in medians and in parks. When given ample room to grow the tree exhibits wide spreading branches. If space is tight, try and plant something called “Fairmont” which grows in a conical form or the “Princeton Sentry” which has an even narrower column-like shape.

The Ginkgo does not require a lot of maintenance. It can benefit from some light spring pruning when young but hardly needs any when mature. It does not have any significant known pest problems and is resistant to oak root fungus. It is worthy to note that the Ginkgo is considered as one of the oldest living trees. Research and fossil records show that the Ginkgo existed during the Jurassic period millions of years ago.

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy

December Tree of the Month

Metrosideros excelsa, New Zealand Christmas Tree
Family: Myrtaceae (Myrtle)
Origin: Coastal New Zealand and Australia

The Metrosideros excelsa is an evergreen tree with a rounded dense crown reaching a height of 35 feet with an equal spread. The tree can be grown as a multi-trunk or single trunk, does well in full sun but can tolerate light shade.

In New Zealand this tree is called Pohutukawa, and blooms during their summer months which are November to January with a peak blooming cycle around Christmas time thus its common name.

The trunk starts smooth becoming rough and fissured with a grayish-brown bark. The leaves are oval and have a beautiful glossy shade of gray/green.
Flowers start as white buds before opening to a very showy crimson red with thin long stamens resembling the flowers of a bottlebrush tree attracting birds and bees.

This tree is smog and drought tolerant, adapts to any soil conditions, tolerates the salty coastal mist making it a good candidate for coastal plantings. The tree is considered pest free but can be susceptible to Phytophthora and Root Rot. It’s aggressive roots can cause sidewalk damage. Another noticeable feature of this tree is its aerial roots which hang down from its branches. If left alone, they can touch the ground and take root forming extra trunks.

This is a beautiful tree especially when in bloom, makes a great accent in a garden, median or as a street tree, and is safe to plant in areas where deer are present. It is also on Southern California Edison’s list of recommended trees to plant under powerlines..

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy

November Tree of the Month

Pistachia chinensis, Chinese pistache
Family: Anacardiaceae
Origin: Native to China, Taiwan and the Philippines

The Chinese pistache is a good shade tree with a rounded crown, fast growing when young and can reach a height of 40 to 50 feet tall with an equal spread. The tree is briefly deciduous. When young this tree can benefit from pruning during the winter but rarely requires any pruning when mature.

The trunk or bark is grayish-brown, smooth at first, becoming fissured as the tree matures. The leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, green at first before turning into a mix of a fiery shade of red, orange and bright yellow producing a stunning display of fall color. The leaves are aromatic when crushed.

It is related to the pistachio tree but does not produce any nuts, instead the female Pistachia chinensis produces clusters of small round vivid red fruit turning to blue and purple in the fall. The fruit can be a nuisance creating a slip hazard when they fall on the ground. The fruit attracts many bird species especially parrots who go crazy over them. If this is a concern, consider planting a fruitless grafted male variety instead. You can then enjoy the spectacular explosion of fall color whether the tree is male or female.

This tree tolerates almost any type of soil from alkaline to acidic, does better in a sunny location, is drought tolerant and can be planted in narrow parkways as a street tree, in parks, or as an accent tree in one’s garden. The tree is relatively pest free but is susceptible to verticillium wilt and root disease.

You can find this tree growing in Vina Vieja Park, in the 2800 block of East Colorado Boulevard and on Glen Avenue in Pasadena.

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy

October Tree of the Month

Koelreuteria bipinnata – Chinese Flame Tree; Golden Rain Tree
Family: Sapindaceae
Origin: Western and Southern China

This is an attractive medium size tree, fast growing with a rounded crown, that can live to 100-years old, and grows between 30 and 40 feet tall, and equally as wide. Its single trunk is grayish brown with furrowed bark.

The tree is deciduous. The leaves are alternate, bipinnately compound with toothed margins: they start green, then change to a golden yellow in the fall before they drop in late fall or early winter.

In late summer the tree is completely covered with clusters of fragrant yellow flowers that attract bees and last through the fall. The flowers are prolific. When they drop on the ground, they cover the sidewalk with a dazzling golden carpet. Fruit pods that resemble Chinese lanterns follow. They start light green, then they change to a salmon/red color in the autumn before becoming a papery shade of brown in the winter. They are used in floral arrangements. This is one of the few trees that blooms in the summer.

The tree is planted in parks for its shade during the summer months and does well in an urban setting as a street tree. Its roots are non-invasive. This tree grows best in full sun and tolerates the summer heat and air pollution. Water needs are moderate. It requires light pruning when young, but not much when mature. The tree requires 6 feet cutouts. Known pests are wood borers, scale and Verticilium wilt. 

You can find this tree growing on Washington Boulevard between Hill Street and Allen Street as well as on Walnut Street in Pasadena.

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy

September Tree of the Month

Arbutus ‘Marina’ – Strawberry Tree
Family: Ericaceae
Origin: A hybrid that was introduced to the Nursery Trade in 1984 by the Saratoga Horticultural Foundation.

The Arbutus ‘Marina’ is a very handsome evergreen tree with a broad canopy and dense foliage, native to the Mediterranean and some parts of Ireland. The growth rate is moderate, the tree can reach a height of 50 feet with a width of about 40 feet. The leaves are elliptic in shape, dark green, glossy with serrated edges. The tree has an amazing looking trunk with a reddish to cinnamon colored bark that peals away in layers in late summer exposing a smooth lighter colored bark underneath.

The flowers hang down in clusters (resembling the Lily of the Valley) in various shades of pink and attract bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. The tree tends to have both the flowers and mature fruit on it at the same time. The fruit can take up to 2 years to mature and looks like small rounded warty globes. They start green in color, turning yellow, orange and finally bright red at which point it becomes edible without much of a flavor though.

The tree does well in a 3-foot parkway, is drought tolerant once established, performs better in full sun, and can benefit from occasional pruning to shape it. It is not recommended for underneath power lines. The tree is resistant to Armillaria but susceptible to Anthractose, Scales and Thrips. The tree can be planted both as a standard or multi trunk form, this is a truly gorgeous tree but not very suitable as a street tree because the dropping of the ripe fruit on sidewalks is messy and slippery.

The tree in the photo can be seen where Thurgood Marshall and North Euclid streets meet behind the Pasadena City Hall.

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy

July/August Tree of the Month

Jacaranda mimosifolia, commonly known as Jacaranda
Family: Bignoniaceae
Origin: Brazil and Argentina

The jacaranda is a very spectacular tree when in bloom. It is fast growing with a height of 25 to 50 feet, and a spread of 50 plus feet.  It is considered a partially deciduous tree.

The leaves are light green and up to 2 feet long and each leaf is composed of dozens of ¼ inch leaflets. The leaves are delicate and fernlike.  The trunk bark is grayish brown, smooth at first turning rough as the tree matures. In late spring the jacaranda tree gets covered with clusters of fragrant rich violet/blue trumpet shaped flowers that are 2 inches long. The tree continues to bloom sporadically throughout the summer. After that brown disk-shaped seed pods appear.

There is also a white flower variety which is rare called: Jacaranda mimosifolia alba. You can find one growing at the corner of south Lake Avenue and Del Mar in Pasadena.

The Jacaranda prefers a soil with good drainage, is drought tolerant when mature, does better in a sunny area but tolerates partial shade. It requires a minimum parkway width of 5 feet. The damage to sidewalks from its roots is moderate.  The tree is susceptible to aphids and Phytophthora root disease.

In his 1988 book titled “Exceptional Trees of Los Angeles” Donald R. Hodel describes a Jacaranda tree at 1870 south Los Robles in San Marino as “The largest and most outstanding specimen in the area” with a 50 feet height and a spread of over 50 feet.

I visited this tree recently with Mr. Hodel’s book in hand and found the tree to be even more spectacular than it did in 1988. The homeowner came out and was very happy to see her tree featured in a book. She moved into the house 13 years ago and heard from her realtor that the tree is famous!

You will find the jacaranda trees gracing many neighborhoods and parks in southern California, and if your plane happens to be landing at LAX in late spring, don’t forget to look out of your window, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of a sea of purple flowers.

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy

June Tree of the Month

Quercus agrifolia (commonly known as coast live oak)

Quercus agrifolia also commonly known as the coast live oak which belongs to the Fagaceae (Beech) family is native to the California coastal mountains and valleys and can be found in areas from Mendocino County to northern Baja California.  

This oak species is widely planted and in Pasadena it makes up for 10.08 % of the city’s tree inventory.  This is a big evergreen tree which can reach a height of up to 70 feet tall.  It has a large spread with gnarled branches and limbs with a rounded dense canopy.  The trunk is short and therefore, does not make for a good timber tree. The tree is considered very drought tolerant and can withstand both the heat and coastal conditions.  Like all other mature native California oaks, the coast live oak does not need to be watered during the summer months. Too much water can cause root fungus (Armillaria) which kills the tree.  If planted in an irrigated area, make sure to direct the water spray away from the tree trunk. 

When young, the trunk and bark of the tree are smooth and light gray becoming dark brown and thick with deep furrows as the tree matures. The leaves are oval and curved under.  It is spiny along the edges like the holly leaves, glossy dark green on the upper side and veins with tufts of hair on the underside. The acorns of the coast live oaks are narrow and pointed with a dark chestnut brown color and deep puffy caps. In the early days, these acorns provided a good source of food for Native Americans. 

The coast live oak is a very attractive specimen tree and does well in urban setting when planted in a parkway that is at least 10 feet wide giving it ample space to grow.  The tree does not tolerate severe root pruning and can cause moderate to severe sidewalk damage.  Among some of the pests and diseases to watch out for are Armillaria (root fungus), oak twig girdler, sudden oak death, the California oak worm and the Polyphagus Shot hole borer.

Here is an important fact about the oak that many of you may not know:
In 2001 the National Arbor Day Foundation conducted a poll over a 4-month period asking people all over the US which was their favorite tree.   At the end when the votes were tallied, the winner with 101,000 votes was the Oak (no particular species).   Coming in second place was the California Redwood with 81,000 votes.  Fast forward to 2004, Congress passed a historic bill which was signed on December 15th by then President George W. Bush making the oak America’s National Tree.

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy

May Tree of the Month

Cinnamomum Camphora (commonly known as camphor tree)
Synonyms: Camphora officinalis, C. officinarum
Family: Laurel
Origin: China, Taiwan, southern Japan, Korea and Vietnam

The camphor is a gorgeous evergreen large shade tree, grows moderately fast, its canopy is rounded, very dense with arching strong branches. The tree can grow up to 50 feet tall and more and twice that wide which results in overcanopying in several streets throughout Pasadena.

One such street where you get to drive through a tunnel-like-effect of greenery is Prospect Boulevard from Orange Grove to Prospect Terrace in Pasadena where the first camphor trees were planted in 1904 and several of them still grace the neighborhood. An interesting example is the black and white photo below taken in 1904, courtesy of the Pasadena Museum of History and a recent color photo of the same location showing the overcanopying.

The camphor tree requires a large space to grow, does better in an 8- to 10-foot parkway, tolerates the summer heat and most soil conditions from acid to alkaline, it makes a great street tree, and does well in parks and large medians. The camphor tree is very prevalent in southern California and other southern states, it is however considered invasive in Florida. In Pasadena it makes up 9.17% of the city’s tree inventory list.

The trunk has furrowed light gray bark and becomes enlarged at the base with age. This unfortunately can cause the sidewalks to lift. The leaves are elliptical to ovate and emit a pleasant aroma of camphor when crushed. Even though the tree is considered evergreen some of the older leaves tend to drop in the late winter and early spring and are replaced with new pink to copper colored leaves that turn bright green and glossy as they mature.

In the spring the tree is covered with tiny little white to creamy, green-colored flowers that are fragrant, followed by clusters of globular black berries which contains a seed inside that birds love to eat.

Some of the diseases to worry about are Verticillium wilt, root diseases and anthracnose. The tree is valuable commercially for the camphor that is distilled from its leaves and wood.

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy

April Tree of the Month

Pink Cloud Cherry Blossom Tree

Pasadena is very fortunate to have several Pink Cloud flowering cherry trees with dark pink flowers growing in Victory Park, Memorial Park and Central Park. These trees can also add a beautiful accent to any garden.

Some background information on how the cherry trees came to be planted in Pasadena.  In 1957 Pasadena became a sister city to Mishima in Japan, a town located about 75 miles southwest of Tokyo.  Thanks to the Sister City Committee, friendships were formed, and cultural exchanges took place between Pasadena and Mishima.  

In 2012, the Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles contacted Pasadena to let them know that an unlimited number of free bareroot Pink Cloud cherry trees were being made available to select cities in Southern California that had relationships with cities in Japan. The City Council then instructed the sister city committee to obtain 50 trees. These trees were procured and donated by the Huntington Botanical Garden to Pasadena.

The trees were planted in various parks in Pasadena in 2012 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of when 3000 flowering cherry trees, a gift from the Mayor of Tokyo Japan to the United States were planted in Washington D.C. in 1912. These trees were meant to celebrate the growing friendship between the people of Japan and the United States.

This Pink Cloud variety grows 15 to 20 feet tall and as wide with a willowy round shape. The leaves are simple, alternate and toothed. The flowers have 5 petals and appear before the leaves in late March and early April.  Flowering cherry trees require full sun, good air circulation and a well-drained soil rich in organic matter. They also require some pruning during the winter.

There are many other cultivars of flowering cherry trees with blossoms ranging in color from white to dark pink. These trees produce some of the most dramatic blooms during the spring. The bloom season unfortunately lasts only a few weeks. Most cultivars live 30 to 40 years with a few exceptions such as the ones in Washington D.C. where some of the original trees that were planted in 1912 are still alive.

The sight of cherry blossoms is so spectacular people travel from all over to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival in our Nation’s capital. If you can’t make it to Washington D.C. or Japan where the tradition of celebrating the cherry blooms goes back thousands of years, you can still be dazzled by the beauty of the ones growing here in Pasadena.

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy

March Tree of the Month

HANDROANTHUS HEPTAPHYLLUS, (Pink Trumpet Tree)
Synonyms: Handroanthus avellanedae, Tabebeuia impetiginosa

We are very fortunate to have several specimens of this tree growing throughout Pasadena. Several years ago, Pasadena Beautiful planted about 230 Tabebeuias on Colorado Boulevard from Wilson Street to Roosevelt Avenue.

This time of the year the trees put on an extravagant display of bright pink flowers that make drivers want to pull over to take a picture. Other areas where you can find these attractive trees growing in Pasadena are on Union Street between Arroyo Parkway and Fair Oaks Avenue; on Dayton Street between Fair Oaks Avenue and Pasadena Avenue; on Holly Street between Fair Oaks Avenue and Raymond Avenue and on Oak Knoll Ave from Walnut Street to Green Street.

This is a small to medium sized tree, 25 to 50 feet tall and almost as wide, with a light straight gray trunk, native to the tropical areas of Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. The tree is partially deciduous. Heavy clusters of showy pink flowers with a yellow throat appear on leafless branches in early spring, the spectacular display of flowers is followed by foot long seed pods that hang onto the tree until winter. This tree does better in warmer areas, is considered drought tolerant once established with no significant pest or disease problems and is suitable for planting under power lines, in parkways, parks and as an accent in a garden.

I feel it is worth sharing with you the little-known fact behind how we got to know the Tabebeuia tree. According to James E. Henrick the Senior Biologist and Curator of the Living Collection at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia, the desire to introduce the Tabebeuia to Southern California originated with Dr. Russell J. Seibert, director of the Los Angeles County Arboretum from 1950 to 1955.

Unfortunately, seed sources from South America at the time were not very reliable. However, that did not deter Dr. Samuel Ayres, Jr., president of the board of trustees of the then California Arboretum Foundation, Inc., from gathering seeds of different species while vacationing in Brazil between 1953 and 1955.
As it is now, the Arboretum was a testing ground for new plants to be evaluated before they are introduced to the nursery trade. As a result of these seed gatherings, the following Tabebeuias were evaluated and produced at the Arboretum and given to local nurseries to propagate and sell to the public.

The Tabebuia chrysotricha commonly known as the golden trumpet tree with eye catching bright yellow flowers was the first to come out in 1964. The Tabebeuia impetiginosa commonly known as pink trumpet tree seen in the present photos, followed in 1979. The Tabebeuia impetiginosa ‘Pink Cloud’ with its very light pink flowers came out in 1984. And the Tabebeuia impetiginosa ‘Raspberry’ with its lavender to dark pink flowers was introduced in 1986.  Beside the above-mentioned varieties there is another gorgeous one, Tabebuia x ‘Apricot’ with beautiful apricot color flowers, it too was produced by the Arboretum in 1970 but has not been introduced yet with plans to do that in the future.

Article and photos by Emina Darakjy