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Watching Trees

Articles: Watching Trees

A telling photo taken at Neary Lagoon in Santa Cruz shows adjacent rows of London plane trees. On the left, ‘Bloodgood’ is looking sparse and yellow, while on the right, ‘Columbia’ shows some characteristic powdery mildew on new growth, but the canopy is otherwise unaffected. The green at the far right looks like those trees are getting irrigation, but that is artificial turf. Photo: Dave Muffly

Fifteen years ago, I asked myself a couple of simple questions. What are the best trees to plant in the cities of the San Francisco Bay Area? And what is the best way to grow those trees? My motivation was—and still is—a response to the many stunted, deformed, and ill-adapted trees littering the roadsides of the Bay Area like bad biological graffiti or publicly funded vandalism.

I spent the previous decade learning to identify trees, both common and rare, throughout the Bay Area. At the time, I didn’t own a car and travelled almost exclusively by bicycle. This form of transport was uniquely useful for learning trees as it allowed me to move more quickly than on foot and with a better view than traveling by car, ye...


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