Sometimes we call this tree the Pineapple Tree because its unshaved trunk is a fabric of diamonds like the skin of a pineapple and its feathered fronds look like a pineapple’s crown. But, while a pineapple is largely a summer fruit, these benevolent palms grace us with greenery year round. And for the fronds that do, inevitably, brown and sag, we can trim them and build forts.
As that first Spanish expedition descended into the San Fernando Valley in the summer of 1769, they named it, El Valle de Santa Catalina de Bononia de los Encinos. Translation: The Valley of St. Catherine of Bononia of the Oaks. The oak tree, like the ill-fated Historic-Cultural Monument #24, had rightfully weaseled its way into the hearts of those explorers.
The Silky Oak’s bottlebrush-like blossoms might amuse us as though they had fallen straight from a Dr. Seuss fantasy, but it is not the Silky Oak for which the valley was named. In fact, this tree is native to Australia.
Even though its flowers are curious, don’t touch the bark… it’s poisonous.
My grandmother, with her self-proclaimed infallibility and notorious bossiness, used to sneak into my bedroom when I had a cough to rub Vics Vapor Rub on my chest. She knew it would make me feel better, but what she didn’t know was the reason behind its magic was the camphor oil – a soothing anesthetic similar to menthol and extracted from the Camphor Tree’s bark. The tree originated in China, Japan and Korea, but has had a strong presence in the LA street tree scene since the 1930’s. It is perhaps best recognized for the size of its canopy compared to the height of its trunk at nearly a 1:1 ratio.