Trees to Know in Napa Valley - Guided Tree Walks
Ever stop in Fuller Park to consider a tree with a trunk like a dinosaur leg and cones bigger than a Thanksgiving turkey? How about feeling the tree bark that becomes stoppers for wine bottles? These explorations are just two of many on the guided Tree Walks provided by the University of California (UC) Master Gardeners of Napa (read on to learn the identities of these trees!). From late June through October, UC Master Gardeners of Napa County are offering free guided tree walks at Fuller Park in downtown Napa and the Veterans Home in Yountville. The tours were created by Napa Master Gardeners as a fun and relaxing way to share research-based information with the public. Much of the information provided on the trees is based on the UC Master Gardeners’ publication, Trees to Know in Napa Valley,by John E. Hoffman and Bill Pramuk, Technical Editor.
The free Napa Tree Walk takes place at Fuller Park on Jefferson Street between Oak and Laurel Streets. The guided tree walk covers 44 of the more than 60 varieties of trees at the park and usually takes 1½ to 2 hours. It is a leisurely walk with a lively oral presentation at each of the 44 trees.
The park, once known as Campbell’s Grove, originally contained a small orchard and the town’s football and baseball fields. After its land was purchased in 1905 by a public supported bond (for a mere $12,000), the 10.8 acre field was renamed Oak Street Park. In 1919, the city changed its name to Fuller Park in honor of C.H. “Jack” Fuller, the Napa mayor involved in obtaining the property. The park is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Since the objective of the park’s founders was to create an arboretum-like setting, they planted trees native to California, North America and from around the world. One of the introduced trees is the Bunya Bunya tree, a native of Queensland Australia. What’s not to like about a tree that reaches recorded heights of 147 feet, with a trunk like a dinosaur leg and cones bigger than a Thanksgiving turkey? Moreover, the 1 inch long seeds hidden in those cones have long been a food source for the native peoples of Australia and are still considered a delicacy today.
Another exceptional tree is the graceful dawn redwood, the sole living species of Metasequoia. This tree has cinnamon colored bark and light green lacy foliage. Believed to be extinct until found in 1941 in a remote region of North China, this tree species can grow in standing water. One little known fact about the dawn redwood is that it is a deciduous conifer. While most conifers stay green all winter, the leaves of the dawn redwood turn a burnt orange color in the fall and drop, leaving the tree bare all winter.
The Cork Oak (Quercus suber) is yet another fascinating tree. Native to the Western Mediterranean and North Africa, most cork oak forests are in Portugal and Spain. Its knobby dark grey bark has made this tree species a very lucrative commercial commodity. The bark is the source of commercial cork and is the primary source of cork for wine bottle stoppers, cork flooring, gaskets and cricket ball cores. Once they reach maturity, cork oaks are harvested every nine years. Harvesting the bark doesn’t harm the tree, and the cork bark regrows. The year of harvest is marked on the trunk so each tree is harvested at the right time. Unlike many other oak trees, cork oak is an evergreen and does not drop all of its leaves in winter. Touching its rough and fissured bark is a very tactile experience.
In addition to the guided tree walk, Fuller Park has a unique self-guided walk. In 2017, the City of Napa and the UC Master Gardeners of Napa County created an informational tree walk designed to provide interesting details about 40 different trees with the use of a mobile device. When the QR code of a tree (located on a nearby placard) is scanned with a mobile device, a UC Master Gardeners website is reached where both written and audio information is provided on individual trees.
The UC Master Gardeners are offering a free Yountville Tree Walk at the Veterans Home for the first time, starting in 2018. The 910 acre Veterans home at Yountville was purchased in 1882 for $17,500 by the Veterans of the Civil War. The property, once a part of Salvador Vallejo’s Napa Rancho, opened on April 1, 1883. In 1896, the facility was sold to the State of California for one gold piece. Interestingly, the Veterans Home also houses the alternate Seat of Government for the Governor’s office, sharing that duty with another State facility at Fresno.
The guided tree walk at the Veterans Home will take about 2 to 2½ hours. Guides will describe 47 different trees. Many of the trees were surplus trees from the creation of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and given to the groundskeeper, Fred Borman in 1900. In 1926, many friends sent trees from around the world to Colonel Nelson Holderman, the commandant at that time. Most of these trees, as well as some of the trees left over from the 1939 SF World’s Fair Exposition, can still be found growing throughout the Veterans Home grounds.
2018 schedule UC Master Gardeners
Guided Tree Walks
Fuller Park in Napa
Mondays at 10am at the corner of Jefferson and Oak Streets
Aug. 6 • Sept. 10 • Oct. 1
Veterans Home in Yountville
Fridays at 9:30am at parking lot across from Kennedy Hall
Aug. 17 • Sept. 21 • Oct. 19
For more information and to sign up to attend these wonderful and stimulating guided Tree Walks, visit the UC Master Gardeners website: ucanr.edu/sites/ucmgnapa and click on the Free Guided Tree Walks link.