Strong, sculptural trees bring a sense of community

By Robert Trachtenberg

Despite the fact the calender says that it is spring, we all know that is still feels like winter. The bloom season for many trees such as Flowering Crabapples has been shortened with all of this rain. So I found myself focusing on the structural beauty of trees and how they help create a strong sense of identity in our community.

I feel fortunate living in a city that has so many neighborhoods that are characterized with stands of majestic trees, like these London Plane trees on Hopkins Street. All photos and captions: Robert Trachtenberg

London Plane trees, often called American Sycamores, are one of the most commonly used street trees in America like these lining Marin Avenue
An allée of London Plane trees frame the view of The Campanile. Laid out on a grid this bosque of pollarded trees create a wonderful sense of place for the plaza
The versatility of London Plane trees allows them to be pruned or pollarded each year
Pollarding trees like these each year can create a sculptural and animated quality that is beautiful in the winter
Like soldiers holding hands, I love the way these trees capture views
A California Buckeye (Aesculus californica) just starting to leaf out is native to California. One of the first trees to lose its leaves, it then reveals a gnarly and naked structure that is like looking at a living piece of sculpture
Native American tribes used the poisonous nuts to stupefy school of fish in small streams to make them easier to catch
Another one of my favorite natives is the Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum). The Maple sends out a tender new leaves that start out with a reddish brown color eventually turning to green in the summer. Small greenish yellow flowers hang in pendulous clusters eventually turning to winged seeds that are called a Samara
Often used as windbreaks or to line driveways, the winter silhouette of a Lombardy Poplar is a striking contrast to the skyline

Robert Trachtenberg, a landscape designer who lives in Berkeley, is the owner of Garden Architecture. This photo essay is part of an occasional series in which Trachtenberg brings an educated eye to the beauty of the nature that surrounds us in Berkeley. His first piece for Berkeleyside focused on the winter silhouettes and shadows created by trees.

Update, 05.14.11: For more information on local trees, check out “A Californian’s Guide to the Trees Among Us” by Matt Riter, published this year by Berkeley’s Heyday Press.