Sunday stroll through UC Davis Arboretum (part 2)

Let’s continue our stroll through the UC Davis Arboretum, which began here.

Unlike other botanical gardens affiliated with a university, the UC Davis Arboretum is not in a separate location but fully integrated into the main campus. In fact, it starts right at the edge of downtown so it gets used both by students and the public at large. As I mentioned before, the Arboretum is open 24/7; there are no gates or fences to keep people out. In our small university town, it’s a treasured institution.


Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold’

One of the most popular spots on campus right now has got to be this lawn area on the edge of Lake Spafford. The two ‘Autumn Gold’ ginkgo trees are in their full fall glory.


Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold’


Zelkova serrata reflected in Lake Spafford


Zelkova serrata


Zelkova serrata

More interesting sights as we continue west towards the Southwestern USA & Mexican Collection:


Arthur Menzies mahonia (Berberis ×media ‘Arthur Menzies’)


Arthur Menzies mahonia (Berberis ×media ‘Arthur Menzies’)


Not sure what this beauty is—possibly a small swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum)


Small cairns, a barrel cactus and a few agaves: I’m trying to find out what this is all about it



Iconic UC Davis water tower with Ephedra distachya

161127_UCDA_035_Ephedra-distycha- -opuntia

Opuntia ficus-indica with Ephedra distachya


Yucca baccata


Opuntia engelmannii infested with cochineal scale. This is a common sight in Southern California and Arizona.


When crushed, the cochineal insect releases a scarlet liquid that makes a high-quality dye


Agave deserti forming a trunk, unsightly as it is


Notice the pups growing from the leaf axils


Sweet acacia or huisache (Vachellia farnesiana, formerly Acacia farnesiana)


UC Davis water tower as seen through a valley oak (Quercus lobata)


My walking partner on Sunday, my friend Ursula, lives downtown right on the edge of the Arboretum. She runs or rides her bike in the Arboretum several times a week and knows it better than I do. Ursula took me to a small fenced-off garden I had never noticed before, the Animal Science GATEway Garden. This is a collaboration between the Arboretum and the Department of Animal Science. It’s a relatively small space, but very well done.


I love those rusty corrugated metal panels!


Mystery agave. It reminds me of my own Agave mitis ‘Nova’ (which some say is a a hybrid between Agave mitis and Agave montana although that wouldn’t explain the exceptional blue coloration).


Bench made out of what might be the gate from an old cattle chute


Mexican flame vine (Senecio confusus)


Does anybody know what kind of tree this is?

The Southwestern USA & Mexican Collection is steadily growing. Quite a few agaves have been planted in recent years under or near trees, simulating growing conditions in the oak woodlands of Mexico.




Agave utahensis


Agave ovatifolia


Agave ovatifolia and Agave americana var. protoamericana ‘Lemon Lime’


Agave americana ‘Striata’, with bird poop adding to the effect


Flower stalks of desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri), a yearly bloomer

Part 3 focuses on the Australian Collection where quite a few grevilleas are in full bloom.



  1. I didn't realize you enjoyed such good fall color up there. The photo of the Zelkova in the lake is stellar!

    1. Ginkgos are always reliable. We also have great color from Chinese pistache and a few others.

      That zelkova is a truly beautiful tree. They should be planted much more than they are.

  2. The leaves don't look quite right, but I'd swear that's a cork oak's trunk.

    1. That's exactly what I thought when I saw the trunk. But I can't make the leaves look like a cork oak...

  3. I'm with Davis Sue--that trunk sure looks like Quercus suber, but the leaves seem a little different. Oak leaves do vary somewhat.

    My 'Nova' is _extremely_ blue, bluer than 'Blue Glow', so perhaps there is variation in the plants out there?

    Thank you for the tour of what must be a charming college town. Looks like a wonderful place.

    One thing I wanted to mention if you have not seen it "grow proteas" on youtube--he's got a good video of growing proteaceae from seed with focus on Mimetes. With great success! Surprised--he's in Sacramento!

    1. I'll go back this weekend to have a closer look at the leaves of that mystery tree. The trunk looks very much like a cork oak, I agree completely.

      My Agave mitis 'Nova' is very blue as well. I don't know why you don't see it more often. It's a truly beautiful cultivar.

      Thank you also for the YouTube link. I hadn't seen any of his videos. I know what I'll be doing tomorrow. Can't wait, especially since he's in Sacramento. If something grows there, it will grow here.

  4. I think you're right on the swamp cypress (bald cypress) ID. How does it get enough water I wonder?
    You're so lucky to live so close to a place like this, and always open? Fantastic!
    BTW, those corrugated panels gave me an idea...

    1. There are larger specimens of swamp cypress in the Arboretum and they grow very well. All of them are planted on the bank of Putah Creek so I assume their roots get water from there.

  5. Like everyone else has said, the bark on that one tree does look like Quercus suber. The leaves look different from what I've seen, but oaks can be so variable in their leaves that I can imagine them as Quercus suber without too much of a stretch.

    I'm really enjoying this series of posts. The arboretum looks fantastic. I hope to make it that far south someday to see it. The oaks, especially, are beautiful, and the still water of that lake reflecting the Zelkova is amazing.

    1. The majority has spoken. Quercus suber it is. There are lots of cork oaks on the UC Davis campus so it makes sense.

      Zelkova serrata is another of those trees that should be planted more often. I was researching the best street tree for our area about 8 years ago, and Zelkova serrata came out on top, based on my subjective criteria (no suckering, no fruit, no pests).


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