Saturday, March 28, 2009


My childhood reading of Greek mythology and the Narnia books has meant trees are always magical to me. I love them in the winter, when no leaves obscure the beauty and remarkable uniqueness of their shape--each branch drawing a different line against the sky, gnarly, delicate, twiggy, smooth and reaching for the heavens. So Spring is bittersweet, bringing a future of rustling bushy green blobs.

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But Washington, D.C. offers such a feast of spring attire, I thought I'd share. Sure, you've likely heard of the Cherry Blossoms, but D.C. is a citywide feast of flowering trees. Here are a few favorites in my neighborhood: I don't know what kind this is at 3236 N St NW--it has little snowball blossoms.

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I love this Weeping Cherry at 3053 P St NW.

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Here it is again with its companion Tulip tree. The house is a lovely frame.


The Tulip tree is beautiful against the gray stone of the Lutheran Church on Wisconsin Avenue and Volta Place.

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This little Weeping Cherry is very elegant at 3201 P St NW.

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I don't know what this red blossoming tree is at 3025 P St. NW, but it is bushy and enthusiastic. It kind of clashes with the painted red brick behind it, though. I fantasize about painting its companion house a dark cream...

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Another Tulip tree by St John's Church on O St and Potomac NW. Technically they're called a Tulip Magnolia and are a hybrid. When they lose their petals, the sidewalks can get a bit slimey.


Yes, this ebullient row of Apple (maybe) borders the Georgetown Safeway Parking Lot. No one told them they should be dressing down for the environment.

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Here is an alley beside 1235 Potomac St NW that started me off on this post. Just to remind us that "beauty is its own excuse for being" (Emerson) and that trees don't need a proper setting or occasion, they just do their job wherever they are. And I appreciate that.


Barbara Samuel said...

Thanks so much for this post. I am a tree fanatic, and have drawn them forever for no reason I can articulate.

But also, my son is moving to DC to work this coming year and this gives me something great to send him.

Edittorrent said...

RE: the bushy and enthusiastic red blossomed tree. I have one just like this on my street, and nobody has been able to identify it for me. If you find out, please share!


Jennifer L said...

What gorgeous photos! Thanks for sharing them. I really have to see Washington one of these days.

Isabel Swift said...

Barbara: I am so pleased you enjoyed the post and love knowing you are a...aboriphile? (that seems more high brow than treefan, but I'm not sure of my latin!). I hope your son likes DC. It's got a lot to offer--in addition to Spring, there are some great bike paths along the Potomac. The photographer William Christenberry has also started creating prints of trees along with his photographs. Will hope to see some of your "tree work" one of these days.

Edittorrent: I will keep my ears open, but just checked with my brother, who knows many things, but unfortunately not this. Will have to think of something else (maybe a photo of a flower & leaf mailed or posted with Name that Plant! subject line).

Jennifer L: thank you! They are just phone photos, but as long as I don't make them to big, they work well. And now I always have a camera with me. If you come to DC (and there's lots of great stuff here) try to come in the spring--it really is lovely then, and not hot yet. Summer can get quite warm!

Michelle Styles said...

I can't see the red bush very well, but wonder if it is some sort of Japonese flowering quince.

Isabel Swift said...

Michelle: I think that's an excellent guess. I don't know my trees but I feel like I've seen quince before & when I read your note, it seemed reasonable. Maybe I have a trace memory that matches! If it's quince, it should bear fruit, right? Or do the Japanese ones refrain...?

Michelle Styles said...

Japanese flowering quinces do mostly have little yellow fruit which are much smaller than regular quinces. They are very sour and be used in preserves but most people don't bother.
The Latin name is chaenomeles japonica if that is any help. They are lovely trees at this time of year.
Speaking of trees have you read the books Thomas Pakenham -- Meetings with Remarkable trees and Remarkable Trees of the world? I will admit to being v fond of trees...

Isabel Swift said...

Someone else suggested japonica, which it turns out is also a name for flowering quince! The pictures of flowering quince seem similar--the only difference is that it's a shrub & not a tree, which this looks like. I think it's possible that it may have been pruned to behave more like a tree--and of course there's a wall blocking my view of what it looks like at the bottom.

Perhaps the following URL will work & it shows a picture of flowering quince that looks very like the tree pictured here. Thanks for the infomation!

Karen Kelley said...

The red flowering tree looks like a Crepe Myrtle. They come in a variety of colors. Thanks for sharing the tree pictures.

Isabel Swift said...

Karen Kelly: Amazingly, I know what a Crepe Myrtle looks like & this isn't it. Excuse the photo photo quality, but this doesn't have the Crepe Myrtle's upward sweep of trunk(s) and branches, pale trunk or the right kind of flowers. Though Crepe Myrtle does grow in DC--used to have them in my backyard!

I do think it's a flowering quince/japonica. Just observed it again & peering from the other side of the street, what I thought was a tree is actually a bunch of branches, trimmed and managed.

I love the global community solving these questions & offering insights. Amazing!

Playground Monitor said...

I see someone already guessed the red tree was a quince.

Beautiful photos. Trees in bloom just dress up the whole street.