For more than twenty-five years, the late Dr Elizabeth McClintock wrote a series of articles for Pacific Horticulture on the trees of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. As botanist for the California Academy of Sciences, she realized that the park’s tree plantings were among the most diverse of any public park on the West Coast. Since its founding in the 1880s, in fact, the park has served as a testing ground for new trees that might help “green” the cities that were growing rapidly in the new state following the discovery of gold. As Golden Gate Park celebrates its 140th anniversary, Pacific Horticulture launches a new series of articles on trees: Striving for Diversity. Botanist and contributor Matt Ritter explains the vision behind this new series:
“We need more diversity in tree planting. Why? Our mild climate allows for it, diversity is more interesting and beautiful, and diverse plantings are safer, making the urban forest more resilient to onslaughts of pests and diseases. Yet, most trees sold and planted in California come from a list of no more than a hundred or so species. A recently published survey of approved planting lists for California municipalities showed that only twenty-six percent of the tree species currently grown in the state are approved for future planting. Given the relatively risky nature of the nursery and landscape industries, it is, perhaps, not surprising that growers and designers are often hesitant to experiment with new trees. However, if we plant only trees that we know will succeed, we are likely to become mired in a horticultural rut without ever discovering new species that might prove to be of great merit. Nothing ventured…nothing gained.”
We are delighted to have Matt providing the first installments in this new series of articles on trees, and hope that you will enjoy his story of pink and golden trumpet trees (Handroanthus spp.) on page 8 of the April 2011 issue. More importantly, we hope that readers will be encouraged to take some risks, at least with the smaller trees, and plant some species that may be underused in the current landscape.
By coincidence, the story of the trumpet trees ties in well with Matt’s article on the reasons for changes in plant names, which appears on page 48 of the April 2011 issue.