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Tree Walk: Capitol Park and surrounding streets

Easter Sunday found us in Sacramento for the “Treasures from Hearst Castle” exhibit at the California Museum of History, Women and the Arts. I heard of the exhibit on the March 12 broadcast of Forum with Michael Krasny. I especially wanted to see the five-foot replica of the castle’s tiled bath tub. Amanda Meeker, director of exhibitions at the California Museum for History, Women and the Arts, listed this item as one of her favorites in the exhibit. I was disappointed; there was no tub. The replica was simply a swatch of colored tiles embedded in the floor of the exhibit area. Regardless, the artifacts from the castle are incredibly beautiful and diverse in design and origin.

On the way to the museum, we walked through Capitol Park, the 40-acre grounds of the Sacramento Capitol. I noticed markers on the trees labeled with the words “Tree Tour” followed by a number. For example, the Canary Island date palm pictured above (right) is tree #61 on the tour. The Capitol was closed - it was a Sunday and a holiday - so I could not get a copy of the tree tour map. At least I assumed there was a tree tour map. An online search later in the day did not yield a map or mention of a map, but the Sacramento Tree Foundation offers guided tours of the park. There is a weathered, laminated map attached to a concrete block near the Ninth Street entrance. Of the trees identified on the map I was most interested in finding the monkey puzzle tree. I did not find the tree; I became disoriented without a portable map and the intense sunshine was exhausting.

On the streets around the Capitol, I found oak galls (pictured above), ginkgo flowers (below), and sycamores (also below).

I know the tree pictured above is not a London planetree (P. x acerifolia) based on Arthur Plotnik’s description below. (Note that the species name - acerifolia - is composed of the genus name for maple - Acer - and the Latin word for foliage or leaf - folia. The shape of the planetree leaf is similar to that of the maple.) It could be an American sycamore/ western planetree (P. occidentalis) based on Plotnik’s description below, but this specis is not listed on the Sacramento Tree Foundation’s tree list. The tree list contains the California sycamore (Platanus racemosa). Sacramento Tree Foundation is a well-respected urban forestry organization, so I will assume that the tree in the photograph is a California sycamore and that Plotnik’s description is making a distinction between the hybrid London planetree and non-hybrid native sycamores.

Plotnik, in The Urban Tree Book, describes the bark characteristics of sycamores as follows:

The London planetree and its parts are a feast for observers. The tan-gray outer bark, which cannot stretch to keep up with the tree’s growth, peels away (exfoliates) in tubular curls and reveals patches of the smooth inner bark. The colors of this bark vary according to exposure to sunlight and species variety, but the London planetree will usually show a pretty olive green and sometimes a pale yellow among its mottle, even on the trunk. (American sycamores retain more of the flaky outer bark on the trunk {my emphasis}; branches are smoother and show grays, tans, and whites.)