Late fall at the UC Davis Arboretum

The Arboretum on the University of California Davis campus is only a few miles from our house. I visit frequently and have written several related posts (1 2 3 4).

Sunday was a gray day but temperatures were fairly mild so the whole family joined me on a walk along Putah Creek, the main body of water that winds its way through the Arboretum.


I knew that there would be fall color from deciduous trees such as Chinese pistache and cohorts, and I wasn’t disappointed.

111127_trunk leaves

To my surprise, I also encountered two species of deciduous conifers I had never noticed there before: bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), common in the Southeastern U.S. but not often seen here in the West, and dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), a redwood relative native to Central China.

Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) glowing like a beacon
Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Left: Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Middle: Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)
Right: Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

The Arboretum has quite a few ginkgos, many of them planted as memorial trees. Unlike the blazing yellow specimen I photographed last week, many were still mostly green, with just a hint of yellow around the leaf margins.

Ginkgo biloba ‘Fairmont’

Some of the trees planted right along the banks of Putah Creek are very sculptural, their branches reaching down and almost touching the water. With leaves beginning to turn, or already gone, they are reflecting the time of year.

Unidentified big tree by the water
This small dock is a popular hangout for kids who like to feed the ducks (officially discouraged but…)
Trees that have already shed their leaves present a majestic outline against the gray sky

While deciduous shrubs and trees bear witness to the season, many Mediterranean plants look the way they always do. In fact, winter is when rosemary blooms best in our climate.

Blooming rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
111127_rosemary bushgermander
Blooming rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and bush germander (Teucrium fruticans)
Not a Mediterranean native, but flowering merrily at this time of year: a winter-blooming red hot poker (Knipfhofia sp.)

At the end of our walk, we circled through the Ruth Storer Valley-Wise Garden which showcases both native and climate-appropriate plants from other parts of the world. Here you find Japanese barberries planted next to yuccas from the Southwest, and brachyglottis from New Zealand juxtaposed with a smoke bush from the Southeast.

111127_Yucca-Margaritaville Berberis-thunbergii-Rose-Glow
Yucca recurvifolia ‘Margaritaville’ and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’)
111127_Berberis-thunbergii-Rose-Glow Zantedeschia-aethiopica
Calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’)
111127_Berberis-thunbergii-Rose-Glow- -Miscanthus-sinensis-Silberspinne_001
Silver Spider maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberspinne’) and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
Sarabande maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Sarabande’) and autumn sage (Salvia gregii)
Smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria x dummeri ‘Grace’)
Brachyglottis-Sunshine Cotinus-coggygria
Smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) and Brachyglottis ‘Sunshine’
Brachyglottis ‘Sunshine.’ This small shrub from New Zealand used to be part of the gigantic Senecio family
111127_rose Leucophyllum-frutescens
No sign of late fall here: Texas sage or cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens) and an unidentified rose cultivar


  1. Now that you recognize bald cypress and dawn redwood, you'll probably see them more often, especially at this time of year. At least that's how it is for me around here -- I see specimens of bald cypress all over now. Perhaps in your climate there aren't nearly as many though.

    You removed your red-hot pokers, didn't you?

    I'm a little surprised to see the barberry there -- I thought it was considered to be invasive in warmer climates?

    Great stuff!

  2. Alan, this is the first time I noticed this bald cypress and dawn redwood. They're definitely not common street trees around here, but they should be used more!

    I see barberry planted a lot in front yards. I had no idea they had a reputation for being invasive. lists Berberis thunbergii as invasive in the Eastern U.S. but Davis Wiki says "Sold and planted widely in the Sacramento Valley for over 50 years, it has shown no invasive tendencies."

    I haven't taken out my red hot pokers yet but it's on the list for the weekend.

  3. Fantastic colours Gerhard. Really enjoyed my visit!!

  4. Wow I love that bald cypress! That color is very impressive! And the red hot poker blooming now!? Really looks great! Wonderful photos!

  5. Candy, I'd never seen a bald cypress before. I wish we had room for one or two!! The red hot poker is a winter blooming variety, probably 'Winter Cheer.' Ours bloom much later in the spring.


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