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TREES, PLEASE! Unique Tree Selections From A To Z

By Robin Y. Rivet, for Let’s Talk Plants! April 2024.

Unique Tree Selections from A to Z

Although this is published on April Fool’s Day, there’s nothing foolish about Arbor Day on April 22nd. Of course, spring isn’t the optimal time to plant trees in San Diego County: But you should plan now! I’ve compiled a list of less common species that might lift your choices from the mundane to trees worthy of a placard.

A.      Acerola cherry – Malpighia emarginata: Highly ornamental and edible, fountain-like habit; berries one of the richest sources of Vitamin C in the world. Long blooming evergreen, sub-tropical + drought tolerance.

B.       Bottlebrush - Callistemon citrinus ‘Jeffersii’ - Not tall and red; this tree/shrub is <10’ with purplish-magenta flowers. Blooms all-year in San Diego.

C.       Chilopsis linearis ‘Monhews’, Native desert willow cultivar with spectacular two-toned, burgundy/lilac inflorescence, very long blooming period, sets no seed pods. aka ‘Timeless Beauty’.

D.      Dalbergia sissoo – Indian Rosewood: Tall narrow form, nitrogen-fixing. Cool species for SoCal climate future with gorgeous hardwood.

E.        Elderberry (blue) - Sambuca mexicana: Attractive umbels, blue-fruited native tree; wildlife friendly nitrogen-fixer; cook before eating.

F.   Flame-Thrower® Redbud- Cercis canadensis: Dazzling new hybrid captivates with colorful foliage all year. Suggest planting in an east-facing location. Spring 2024 it’s available locally here. (insert pic here)

G.      Ghost Gum - Eucalyptus aparrerinja – University of CA recommended for our climate-ready future; note name confusion in the trades when sold as Corymbia papuana.

H.      Honeyhart cherimoya – Annona cherimolaHoneyhart’: Velvety-leaved, delectable, sub-tropical fruit; this cultivar from our backyard was a local taste-test winner.

Iochroma cyaneum by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

I.   Iochroma cyaneum: A hummingbird magnet. A genus with numerous colorful species & cultivars and tubular blooms every day of the year.

J.  Jamaican Cherry – Muntingia calabura: Marble-sized, fig-like fruit producing two crops a day! Tastes just like cotton candy.

K.      Kurrajong - Brachychiton populneus: Tough, fast-growing Australian “bottle tree”. Distinctive trunk, flowers and seed pods.

Luma apiculata – Chilean myrtle - Creative Commons by Dick Colbert.

L.   Luma apiculata – Chilean Myrtle: Why isn’t this gorgeous Mediterranean tree planted more? Cinnamon-orange bark, showy white flowers, deep, glossy evergreen leaves – aromatic when crushed. Edible and medicinal berries too! 

M.    Melaleuca linariifolia - Flaxleaf paperbark: Envision snow landing on top of a resilient, fine-leafed, medium sized, drought tough shade tree. A white-flowering show-stopper - underestimated as a yard species.

N.      NectaPlum™: Prunus spp.‘SpiceZee®’:Read about this incredible fruit, but never tasted it? Combines juicy, sweet plum with complex spicy nectarine flavors. Showy burgundy foliage ices the cake.

O.     Orange – Citrus sinensis ‘Smith Red’: What if your orange was red? Imagine a Valencia with blood-red flesh? This “blood orange” is marvelous. Grow it, until HLB knocks off all our backyard citrus.

P.      Pecan – Carya illinoinensis: Am I nuts? Yes, however pecan makes a valuable deciduous shade tree, and is incredibly edible. Mohawk or Mahan are self-fruitful cultivars. Can thrive in Sunset Zones 18-23.

Q.     Quercus suber - Cork Oak: Why not grow cork? Acorns for wildlife habitat; truly fascinating bark.

S.  Stenocarpus sinuatis– Firewheel tree: What’s not to love? The leaves, flowers, and seedpods are incredibly unique. In glorious bloom, it’s truly stunning.

Seeds of Harpullia pendula (Tulipwood) by Tatters - Creative Commons.

T.    Tulipwood – Harpullia pendula: Striking orange fruit, showy flowers, smaller evergreen that provides and accepts some shade.

Upland Cotton – Leaf (and bud) - Darius Lysandre (cc-by-sa) - Sep 21, 2018.

U.      Upland Cotton – Gossypium hirsutum A diminutive cotton tree/shrub that survives potting. Impressive flowers for a SoCal wildlife habitat; birds pluck the cotton for nesting.

V.      Valentine pummelo hybrid - Citrus maxima: Cross from a ‘Siamese Sweet pummelo, ‘Dancy’ mandarin, and ‘Ruby’ blood orange. Trust me, this might become your favorite breakfast fruit.

W.   White Champaca – Michelia champaca ‘Alba’: aka Magnolia x alba – Intensely scented, upright tree form. Tough and adaptable in mild microclimates.

X.     Xylosma congesta - Shiny Xylosma: Versatile evergreen for screening, hedging, topiary or trained as a standard. Inconspicuous flowers and fruits.

Y.      Ylang-Ylang - Cananga odorata: Cultivated for intoxicating perfume, it’s also a showy species.

Z.     Ziziphus jujuba – Chinese jujube; The ‘Sherwood’ cultivar fruit is sweet, nutty, crisp & crunchy; kids love them. Ripens in fall for school gardens.


Some species may be ordered locally; others can be sourced online; and a few procured through regional horticultural organizations. Why not make a significant contribution to our future? After all, a fine tree planted today, might easily outlive you.



Member Robin Rivet is an ISA Certified Arborist & UCCE Master Gardener – contact her:


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