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Tree Walk: On the street names of Berkeley

I’ve written about Philadelphia’s tree-named streets for this blog and have seen tree-named streets in Berkeley, but it was a recent Times article that sparked this post. The Times reporter, in walking Flushing, NY, found several streets named for trees: Ash, Beech, Cherry, and Holly. He writes,

The streets’ names, like the stately trees that shade them, are reminders of a horticultural tradition thought to go back to French Huguenots who came to Flushing around the same time as the Quakers, also seeking religious freedom. Lewis and Clark sent plant specimens to the commercial nursery founded here by Robert Prince in 1737.

I did not learn of a similar horticultural tradition in Berkeley, but the Quick Index to the Origin of Berkeley’s Names published by the Berkeley Historical Society provided some information about streets like Pine Avenue in the Elmwood. It was named for the pine tree. As was

Acacia, Bay Tree Lane, Cherry Street, Cypress Street, Elmwood Ave and Court, Eucalyptus Path and Road, Hawthorne Steps and Terrace, Laurel Street, Linden Avenue, Magnolia Street, Oak Path, Street, and Street Path, Oak Knoll Path and Terrace, Palm Court, Poplar Path and Street, Redwood Terrace, Thousand Oaks Blvd, Walnut Street, Willow Trail, Walk, and Path, and Spruce Street.

Pine Avenue is surrounded by other tree-named streets.

Cedar Street was a case of mistaken identity; a cypress was mistaken for a cedar. Encina Place is named after the Spanish word for live oak; Roble Road was named after the Spanish word for oak. Ensenada Avenue, it follows, was named for the “place of many oaks.” Nogales Street, another Spanish derivative, was named because it was the “place where walnuts grow.” Live Oak Park was named for the “multitude of oak trees there.” Oak Knoll Terrace was named for a “particular oak tree” and Pepper Tree Lane was named for the pepper trees that used to line the road.

Fresno is the Spanish word for ash tree, so Fresno Avenue is named for the ash. The Latin term for the genus to which ash species belong is Fraxinus. Although maligned for is shallow root system that lifts sidewalk panels, Arthur Plotnick (in The Urban Tree Book) notes that the ash tree is sacred in Norse mythology - “honey rained and beer flowed” from the ash, also known as the “Tree of Life.”


Anonymous said…
05/05/08 @ 12:00

In response to: Tree Walk: On the street names of Berkeley
Comment from : Dagny McKinley [Visitor]

Thanks for sharing. You've opened my awareness of signs around us. Doing some research, I found many of the streets in this town were named after the founders of the town. I'll have to open my eyes to other indicators of history in our street names. Our complex is called the Moraine Townhouses, for the rocks and soil deposited by glaciers.

Dagny McKinley
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