Arbor Day, which falls on Oct. 21 this year, is a perfect day for a stroll in Fuller Park. This beautiful Napa park is the city’s arboretum with more than 60 outstanding trees, many marked with signs that provide useful information about each tree. For me, walking the park today is vastly different from my earlier strolls.
When I was growing up here in Napa in the 1950s, the weekend treat was a visit to Fuller Park for an afternoon of fun. Back then, all I was interested in was conquering the spiral slide. Over the years, I returned sporadically. In 2014, when I became UC Master Gardener, I finally realized what an amazing place Fuller Park is.
Fuller Park is on the National Register of Historic Places and was originally known as Campbell’s Grove. Acquired by the city of Napa in 1905, it was turned into a city park called Oak Street Park. The name was changed to Fuller Park in 1919 to honor C.H. “Jack” Fuller, the Napa mayor involved in the acquisition of the property.
The UC Master Gardeners of Napa County are offering guided tree walks in Fuller Park through October. When I joined the tree-walk team, all I knew about the different trees was which ones were evergreens and which were not. That’s not much information for conducting a guided tree walk. To learn more, I have since spent many happy hours wandering through the park and familiarizing myself with its remarkable collection of trees.
My favorite tree is the Bunya Bunya, a native of Queensland, Australia. What’s not to like about a tree that can reach a height of 140 feet (the recorded high is 147 feet), with a trunk like a dinosaur leg and with cones bigger than a Thanksgiving turkey? Plus, the edible 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.
Another exceptional tree is the graceful dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). It is the sole remaining species of its genus. This tree has cinnamon-colored bark and light green, lacy foliage. Believed to be extinct until, in 1941, it was found in a remote region of North China, this tree can grow in standing water. My favorite little factoid about the dawn redwood is that it is a deciduous conifer. While most conifers stay green all winter, this tree’s leaves turn a burnt orange and drop. The tree is bare all winter.
Another fascinating tree is the cork oak (Quercus suber). Its knobby, dark-gray bark is a lucrative commodity. Native to the Western Mediterranean and North Africa, most cork oak forests are in Portugal and Spain. The bark is the primary source of cork for wine bottle stoppers, cork flooring, gaskets and the cores of cricket balls.
Once they reach maturity, cork oaks are harvested every nine years. Harvesting the bark doesn’t harm the tree; the 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 its leaves. Touching the bark is a very tactile experience.
Among the 60 tree species at Fuller Park, it is hard to find a tree that isn’t interesting in some manner. There is a group of Chinese hackberry trees (Celtis sinensis) that are native to Eastern Asia. These trees are members of the cannabis family, but with no THC, which is the psychoactive compound.
The bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is more often found in the swamps of Florida and in Louisiana bayous with the roots forming knees. Every part of the English yew (Taxus baccata) is poisonous except for the small cup-like structure that holds the berry. The poisonous alkaloid found in this tree contains some chemicals effective in combating lung and prostate cancers and in treating advanced breast cancer.
The English elm (Ulmus procera) was used for water pipes by the Romans because it is not susceptible to rot. The wood of the Northern red oak (Quercus rubra) is so porous that if you blow smoke into one end, it would come out the other end.
The city of Napa and the UC Master Gardeners of Napa County have created a virtual guided tree walk, with posted signs on 40 different trees. Each sign has the common name and Latin name of the tree, plus a QR (quick-response) code that you can scan if you have the appropriate app on your smartphone. Scanning the code sends you to the Master Gardeners’ website with information for the tree you scanned. Some brief facts will be displayed with an optional audio link for further information
Celebrate Arbor Day be joining UC Master Gardeners of Napa County on a free guided tree walk on Saturday, Oct. 21, at Fuller Park. Meet at 10 a.m. on the corner of Jefferson and Oak streets. The city of Napa is an official “Tree City USA,” recognized by the National Arbor Day Foundation. Napa maintains this honor through tree preservation, care and reforestation programs such as the Annual Arbor Day tree planting
Workshop: The UC Master Gardeners of Napa County will hold a workshop on “Toxic and Carnivorous Plants and Mushroom Kits” on Saturday, Oct. 28, from 9:30-11:30 a.m., at University of California Cooperative Extension, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Napa. Foxglove. Lily-of-the-valley. Wisteria. These common plants and others are toxic. Who knew? Sundew. Venus flytrap. Pitcher plant. They’re carnivorous. While we would not touch a mushroom in the garden, growing edible fungi from kits is easy and neither toxic nor carnivorous. Explore the fascinating properties that plants have to protect them. Online registration (credit card only);
Mail in registration, check only, or drop off cash payment.