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Posted by on Apr 22, 2014 | 4 comments

Love for Del Ray Trees

Love for Del Ray Trees

It’s hard to walk around Del Ray without noticing the trees. Despite vicious storms over the past few years which caused significant damage, our trees continue to amaze with their brilliant spring blossoms, gorgeous autumnal color and unique shapes and textures. In honor of Earth Day and Arbor Day this week, we thought we’d take a closer look at some of Del Ray’s signature trees.

The spotted and flaky bark of the sycamore has intrigued me for years. By summer, it will have large leaves which help provide much-needed shade.


Our state tree/flower, the dogwood, grows only to a height of about 15 feet, making it ideal for small properties. I’ve seen a couple different colored versions of this dainty flower around town.



It’s hard not to love the flowering cherry tree with those billowy puffs of pink. Though many of our flowering trees are past their prime by now, the cherry still seems to be going strong.



Bradford pears produce wonderful white blooms in spring (and an odd scent).


Looks aren’t everything. Bradford pears have very weak wood that snaps easily in snow and high winds, so you should be cautious before planting them. During the 2011 derecho, a branch from one of these trees snapped, crashing into a neighbor’s windshield.


Holly trees provide green color all year long — with cross pollination, you will see vivid red berries. The holly can be kept small as a shrub or you can let to grow to its max height of about 40 feet.


For years I’ve wondered what these spiked balls are that gather on the sidewalks.


They are the dried fruit of the sweetgum tree, the seeds inside are a tasty treat for squirrels and birds.


The sweetgum tree has leaves with five points like a star and the bark has vertical furrows.


Similarly, the blackgum also produces spiked fruit balls, but one major difference is in the leaves. Where the sweetgum has the five-pointed star leaves, the blackgum’s are a waxy oval shape. They turn a brilliant shade of red in autumn.


Most of the trees lining Mt. Vernon Ave. are zelkovas, in the elm family. They don’t produce flowers, but they have spectacular fall color. Their branches form a vase shape and they are good street trees because of their dense shade, ability to grow in poor soil and resistance to pollution. Here’s one from a couple seasons ago.


Do you have any favorites? Curious about trees on your street? Check out this tree identifier from the Arbor Day Foundation. This is the first post in a series about Del Ray trees — we’ll be back with more species and planting and maintenance tips.


  1. Thank you for this lovely post Katie. My favorite tree by far is the gingko. Unfortunately many people dislike gingkos for the smelly fruits the female trees drop. But how can you not love and respect these living fossils?

    • Thanks Kay! I was going to include the gingko in this post but I didn’t have a good photo. I’m planning one or two more posts about trees and hope to feature it then. I love when the leaves turn yellow and then coat the ground.

  2. Oh, Kay, I love gingkos also! Beloved in Chinese paintings, where I’ve enjoyed them along with the real thing. I also love the redbuds, and I was driving home today, I was thinking (before I saw your post) how wonderful the trees are this time of year… how many are flowering so beautifully. My dad (now deceased) loved driving down the Shenandoah Valley and seeing the dogwoods and redbuds in April (when my youngest son won Physics awards 3 yrs in a row , and we went down for the ceremonies). I also love the older American sycamore trees with a camouflage-looking bark that my son and his friend used to call the G.I. Joe tree.

    “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” — Greek Proverb

  3. I love the magnolia trees with their big blossoms! They didn’t last too long this spring, though.

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