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Trees In Balboa Park Make It Our Own Garden Of Eden

Photo caption:

Photo by Brooke Ruth

The roots of the Moreton Bay Fig located behind the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park are pictured, Aug. 4, 2015.

Photo by Brooke Ruth

The Eucalyptus deglupta behind the Casa de Balboa in Balboa Park, Aug. 4, 2015.

Photo by Brooke Ruth

The Dypsis decaryi palm in Balboa Park, Aug. 4,2015.

Photo by Brooke Ruth

The Clown Fig inside the Botanical Building at Balboa Park is pictured, Aug. 4, 2015.

In the mid-1980s, in my late teens, I thought landscape architecture might be something I'd like to do. So I enrolled in a trees class at Mesa College.

Our trips to Balboa Park were my favorite sessions — where we were introduced to all the glorious trees living there.

From my perennial favorites, the stately Koelreuteria bipinnata (Chinese flame tree) that grace the Prado entrance with their salmon-colored panicles each fall, to the Eucalyptus deglupta with its technicolor striped bark hidden behind the Casa de Balboa, to the gum tree with flowers that smell like popcorn, to the magnificent but unfortunately delicate Fishtail palm that did not survive a particularly frosty winter one year, to the redwood trees tucked away along Balboa Drive — each species has something to delight, making Balboa Park our own garden of Eden.

And of course I can't leave out the the cow itch tree (Lagunaria), the strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), the triangular palm (Dypsis decaryi), the odd Chorisia speciosa, the sweet-smelling flowers of the Bauhinia, the Palo Verde with its vibrating hum of bees, and Albizia julibrissin is just fun to say out loud although it really is lovely in bloom, too.

Many people will remember the Moreton Bay fig that is now sadly fenced off (for its own good, but still), but my ficus favorites are the splotchy Clown Fig in the Botanical Building and the ornamental fuzzy-fruited fig whose name I don't know behind the Museum of Art.

Whenever I visit the park I think of the people who chose these trees from all over the world, selected locations to best take advantage of our microclimates, and those who have cared for them since to keep them alive and surprising us with their beauty in unexpected corners of the park.

To all these horticulturists and landscapers, we thank and salute you.

KPBS is collecting your Balboa Park memories as the city marks the 100th anniversary of Balboa Park's 1915 Panama-California Exposition.

Share yours here: Tell us about your Balboa Park memory

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