Trees have always been an important feature in Claremont—the City contains 23,000 trees of varying species and ages. But two specific groups of trees are especially significant in the City's history: the American Elms at Memorial Park and the College Avenue Eucalyptus trees.
American Elm (Ulmus americana)
Only six days after the first town meeting in February 1889, a three-member committee on sidewalks and shade trees reported a gift of 250 trees. They suggested residents meet and decide what trees should be planted on each street—these early Claremont pioneers decided that the city should have the character and charm of an East Coast college town. To aid this concept, many of the trees originally selected were species found more commonly in the eastern part of the country. Among this first batch of trees were several American Elm; the majority were planted along what is now Indian Hill Boulevard. Many of these trees still remain standing and in good health to this day: the most notable of them form the high canopy on Indian Hill Boulevard near Memorial Park.
Claremont boasts one of the oldest living—and healthiest—groves of American Elms in California. This is rather amazing considering the onslaught of Dutch Elm Disease (DED), a lethal tree disease which has infected about 98% of American Elms across North America. Because the disease can spread so rapidly and usually kills the tree it infects, a quarantine on importing American Elms into California has been in effect for nearly 50 years. In February of 1991, 28 experimental American Elms (including three cultivars) bred for resistance to DED were planted on 11th Street just west of Indian Hill. To date, the experimental Elms have remained healthy and vibrant.
The City of Claremont remains dedicated to preserving the distinctive character of Indian Hill Boulevard. The graceful branches of the Elms, laced together high above the street, create a soothing ambiance found in few communities. That is why the City is committed to monitor and maintain these trees with the greatest of care. They are our heritage.
Manna Gum (Eucalyptus viminalis)
As Chairman of the Street Tree Committee in 1898, Frank P. Brackett was responsible for building up the community forest of the newly emerging town of Claremont by planting young trees and carrying buckets of water to them when they needed it. Of the many legacies Mr. Brackett left to this City, perhaps the most noteworthy is the group of young Eucalyptus viminalis, or Manna Gum, which he planted along what is today known as College Avenue. Mr. Brackett selected these trees with the utmost care, making sure each young sapling was a fine, sturdy specimen at least the thickness of his thumb.
Many of these original Eucalyptus remain standing today, largely due to Mr. Brackett's careful selection and dedication. A bit larger now than Mr. Brackett's thumb, one of the oldest of his trees was last measured at almost 50 inches in diameter! The tallest Eucalyptus standing on College has recently been measured at 130 feet tall.
Claremont continually monitors the health of these trees via a sophisticated database, and keeps them maintained using only the highest accepted standards of tree care. The City has also implemented an aggressive tree planting program in an effort to continue the tradition Frank Brackett started over 100 years ago.
Here are a few of the interesting and rare species species you can find around Claremont:
White Sapote (Casimiroa edulis)
This tropical citrus relative, which grows to about 50 feet, bears a small pale-green/yellow fruit. The texture of the fruit's white flesh is something like custard. White Sapote usually only thrives in frost-free coastal areas.
Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)
Unlike the Coast Redwood, to which it is related, the Dawn Redwood loses all of its needles in the winter. This is one of the few conifer (trees with needles instead of leaves, such as Pines) known to exhibit such behavior.
Fern-Leaf Catalina Ironwood (Lyonothaumus floribundus)
Finely divided, deep green ferny leaves grace this Channel Islands native. Fernleaf Catalina Ironwood bears large, flat clusters of white flowers and grows upright to between 40-60 feet tall.
Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)
Bigleaf Maple is one of the few Maples native to the Western United States (most species are native to Asia and Europe). It will grow as far south as the foothills near Redlands.