The Dry Garden: Better than beautiful

Posted on | January 14, 2011 | No Comments

The former librarian at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden doesn’t remember exactly when the visitor wandered into her office and let drop that he was a descendant of George Engelmann. What Joan De Fato does remember is telling him that there was a grove of rare oaks on the site that had been named for his ancestor.

You don’t have to be a descendant of one of the fathers of American botany to share in what De Fato recalls as his pleasure and amazement. The arboretum’s grove of Quercus engelmannii, pictured above, is one of the last local stands of a native tree once so common to the foothills that an alternate common name is the Pasadena oak.

The first thing that strikes you upon reaching this group of roughly 200 trees is how much more animated it is by birds, butterflies and scampering lizards than the more cultivated parts of the garden.

The second is that it is drop-dead beautiful.

Better than beautiful. Engelmanns are the oak lover’s oak.

Click here to keep reading today’s Dry Garden column in the Los Angeles Times. This piece had been planned before it was announced that the felling of the nearby Arcadia woodland would take place this week. By coincidence, I was interviewing Los Angeles County senior biologist Jim Henrich about the Arboretum Engelmanns as nearby the county’s Department of Public Works began bulldozing 11 acres containing hundreds of established oaks and sycamores, including at least one Engelmann. More will follow on this site about why the county was allowed to raze pristine native woodland to make way for a sediment dump. I share the anger of the reader who has already commented today below the Engelmann article at the Times. In the meantime, for a snapshot of what we lost, and why it so desperately deserves protection, do visit the Arboretum’s grove of Engelmanns.


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