40 Acres and the Trees

Linda Burton posting from Sacramento, California — More trees per capita than any city in the world? Even Paris? This is a comparison frequently made in Sacramento, in justifying its name as The City of Trees. I’ve never been to Paris but I can vouch for the fact that Sacramento really has a lot of trees.

The first thing that caught my eye as I drove into the city was the trees. Gorgeous trees. Majestic trees. Tall trees, short trees, fruit trees, fir trees, palm trees, pine trees, cedar trees, oak trees; well, you get the idea. All these trees make up what is called an “urban forest,” and technologically that’s a good thing because it makes the air better. Emotionally, trees just make us happier. Who can resist them?

I wondered why so many different kinds of trees grow so well here; turns out this is a “world hotspot” of biodiversity. Sacramento winters are cool enough to support trees that need “chilling hours” to thrive, while mild enough to support the tender subtropicals. You can grow an apple tree and an orange tree, a palm tree and a maple tree – all in the same yard!

A drive along almost any city street shows off the great variety, but the State Capitol grounds will really knock your socks off. This 40-acre park that takes up twelve downtown blocks contains species of plant life from nearly every part of the globe. It started with eight hundred trees in 1869; today some palms remain from the original circular path that was used as a shady walk between the Capitol and the Agricultural Pavilion; they alternated California fan palms with English elm. Additions and renovations have gone on over the years, and many trees are labeled today. Walk the grounds and find these fifteen notable trees:

  1. Deodar Cedar – 8 of these elegant trees are part of the original 12 planted in 1872
  2. Italian Stone Pine – 22 were planted in 1872, only one remains
  3. Southern Magnolia – the Southern magnolia has prospered in the park
  4. Bunya Bunya – native to Australia, this tree was planted in 1887
  5. California Fan Palm – native to California, planted in 1882
  6. Cockspur Coral Tree – when blooming, it looks like a brilliant red bird
  7. Cork Oak – native to the Mediterranean, planted in 1879
  8. Montezuma Cypress – national tree of Mexico, planted in 1920
  9. Dawn Redwood – the only deciduous redwood, it changes color through the seasons
  10. Coast Redwood – state tree, the tallest recorded is 364 feet
  11. Giant Sequoia – also the state tree, can have a girth of 79 feet
  12. Seville Orange/Washington Navel Orange – fruit bearing, sour fruit
  13. Ginkgo Biloba – also called a Maidenhair tree
  14. Irish Yews – dark green, have been wired into formal pillars
  15. Cactus Garden – represents the California desert, planted in 1914

Pick up the Historic State Capitol Park brochure to read more about the trees, floral gardens, statuary, and memorials while you stroll these beautiful grounds. And invite your Parisian friends to come along too.