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Go to the Trees

Being married to a man who speaks latin when he's talking about trees has inspired me to make up my own names for trees: names for the ordinary folk, and names that I think are better than many species' common names. In fact when I use my made up tree names, Phil and my grandmother know exactly what I'm talking about. So... I give you The Trees, by Abigail Joy Stevens

Here we have the Butterfly Tree, easily recognized by the shape of its leaves. I can just imagine all its foliage taking flight. It's common name is the Hong Kong Orchid Tree (Bauhinia variegata). And yes it does get little orchid flowers on it. It also get long spiraling seed pods that make a delicious crunch in the fall.

A perfect seed pod makes four crunches when stepped on... or so Philip says.

I call this one the Tulip Tree. The blooms all look like Tulips. (Common name: Saucer Magnolia. BORING Latin: Magnolia soulangiana) You'd never notice it if it wasn't in bloom. They bloom right after the first cold spell of our Southern California winter. This year they started the show in January. As I drive through Whittier I look for them: bouquets of lovely flowers.

The Tulip Tree's blooms have a gentle purple tint.

Phil calls this tree the La Mirada Abomination. It's actually an Olive Tree at the mercy of the gardeners' hedge trimmers. When Phil and I see these insults to the landscape, we scheme about going to the residents' home in the middle of the night and uprooting the abomination.

This particular brand of Eucalyptus I call the Dr. Seuss Tree. If you've never read a Dr. Seuss book, this will make no sense to you. But if you have, you'll see the resemblance to those skinny trees with a puffs of foliage at the top. It's common name is the Lemon Scented Gum Tree. That's dumb.

Painter Avenue is lined with what I like to call the Broccoli Trees. Jacob and I used to pretend we were giants eating our broccoli at dinner, and that caused us to inspect our broccoli very well. If you ever closely examine your own broccoli, you will see the resemblance to the Ficus Tree.

These trees are actually Uptown Whittier's Bane. They cost hundreds to trim and hundreds in Trip and Fall lawsuits. They rip up the concrete and get into pipes. They drop berries that stain the asphalt and concrete. Their white bark scars terribly. Their wood is useless, it can't be burned or used to built anything. They are majestic looking, but that's about it.

Uptown Whittier has two main streets lined with these trees: Painter and Greenleaf Avenue. Greenleaf's trees are trimmed to look like gumdrops.

These are the blooms of the Snow Tree. Latin: Pyrus calleryana. Common Name: Evergreen Pear. Why Pear? I don't know. This tree doesn't produce pears. And why evergreen? It's not.

Phil's allergic to this tree so he doesn't particularly like it, and its susceptible to Fire Blight, which Phil tells me is a disease.

I love driving down La Mirada Blvd. on a breezy day when these things are in bloom. It looks like California snow.

The look of this tree gets my imagination going. It's the Paint Brush Tree. No it's the Paint Roller Tree. No it's the Fox's Tail Tree. How about the Pole Tree. It's common name is the Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), and I usually can remember this one's name when talking to Phil about it. When I can't I've got lots of word pictures to choose from.

This darn tree... I can never remember it's real name (Camphor) and I still haven't come up with a clever name for it. It can grow up to be a beast, but unlike the Broccoli Tree, this tree can be chopped up and burned. We planted one of these at Granada as a Specimen tree. (Cinnamomum camphora)

Uptown Whittier has a slew of these Camphors. This one is oozing over the curb.

Here is a tree whose real name I never forget. The Magnolia Tree (Magnolia grandiflora.) It's an evergreen and one of Phil's favorite fragrances. So every summer I climb it to reach its blossoms and then rub it all over myself.
Just kidding.
I do love it's great big blooms though. They're always out of reach until they fall on the ground.

You'd never notice them on the ground though because their dead petals look a lot like their fallen leaves.

Ah yes! The hall of Puzzle Trees. (Common Name: Chinese Elm. So uncreative. Ulmus parvifolia)

Look at the next picture to see why I call them Puzzle Trees.

This tree can do all sorts of tricks. It can grow up tall and gangly. It can grow parallel to the ground, and it can meld into itself.

This Puzzle Tree's branches hover over the lawn like a bench.

The Ginkgo (Ginkgo Biloba) can go by no other name in my book. I learned it early on from my Grandmother and the name stuck. It's fan shaped leaves are like magic in the fall. So golden. So glorious.

It's common name is Maiden Hair Tree, which I suppose is acceptable.

The Cactus Monstrosity: I can't even call this beast a tree. It's not a tree. It never should have grown into a tree. What were the people who let this thing grow in their front yard thinking. It has a trunk. It looks like an octopus from hell. Phil thinks it's cool. I couldn't photograph it properly because it's tucked back behind two tall trees in some crazy person's front yard.

Neither Phil nor I know what this thing actually is... aside from ugly.

Last of all the Beetle Bush: this thing looks like squashed cockroaches when it's in bloom. It's called Bear's Breech (Acanthus mollis) for who knows what reason.
The End


NoSpamHam said…
John Gruendyke's father told me that he knew the fellow the City of Whittier hired to plant many of the trees that still exist. Grandpa Gruendyke said that he was German and was extremely precise about the trees being absolutely parallel of each other on each side of the street. He also said that the German fellow liked having different trees for different streets--which is why there are pines on Beverly, etc. I don't think this guy ever planned for the growth Whittier experience in the 1940's forward, otherwise I bet he would have planned better since so many of the trees have been a nuisance for the roads and sidewalks.
Erin said…
I love it! So fun to read. :)
The love your pictures and sometimes gutsy descriptions! So fun to read!
(Oh, Erin already said that, oh well, great minds think alike)
Robin said…
Hey uptown neighbors, we are having our oak tree trimmed (20 to 25%) this Wednesday. It sure needs it and will cut down greatly on the pollen soon to fall this Spring. Enjoyed your tree pictures. There is a mighty cedar of Lebanon tree on the old Strong ranch property nearby. It is a little hard to find but the City of Whittier takes care of it. Mrs Strong brought it to Whittier after visiting Israel I was told. Uncle David

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