April 25th is Arbor Day and there are many events going on in my hometown of San Diego for the next week that are related to it. For example, there are hikes on Saturday, April 26th and a tree planting in Coronado on May 3rd. Most of the nation seems to be celebrating Arbor Day in the same way with tree plantings all over the nation.
Planting trees is a good idea as it replenishes the trees that people use for housing, paper and other uses. San Diego doesn’t have many native trees, except in the mountains. This area is mostly a desert and most of our plants are scrub-type plants like coastal sage scrub. In the mountains, one can see varieties of native oak, juniper and cottonwood trees. In the desert, the California and Mexican fan palms are native to that area, but have been transported to the coast.
Arbor Day was started to encourage people to plant and protect trees and is often celebrated by planting a tree through community events. In San Diego, I suggest people plant native trees or shrubs for their area. Native vegetation is often drought tolerant and will save water. They also tend to be disease and insect resistant. And, they usually grow best in the local soil. Most of the wildlife in the area is well adapted to native vegetation and you could end up attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.
If full-sized trees don’t fit well in your area, I suggest native shrubs, some of which can grow quite tall. I have a Mexican elderberry in my yard that looks like a tree and is almost thirty feet tall. Birds seem to enjoy these plants and eat some of the fruit. There also seems to be sap or some kind of substance on its branches that hummingbirds like. The berries are a bit messy. There are a variety of shrubs available that grow tall like trees that are native to San Diego.
I found a couple trees that are native to the coastal areas: Coast live oak and Torrey pine. Coast live oaks can grow large, but mostly horizontally, so it’s better suited for larger yards. I’ve seen these trees in the Mission Trails Regional Park. The Torrey pine can grow fairly tall, but also spreads out runners and branches making it more wide than tall.
Even though most of San Diego is too dry for most trees, there’s still a way to plant trees here for Arbor Day.