The Portland Heritage Tree Quest, Group 9 - Northwest passages: riding out the storm - CycleBlaze

March 4, 2020

The Portland Heritage Tree Quest, Group 9

The weather is fair again today and the description for the first showing at the film festival doesn’t inspire us, so we decide to hit the road.  Rachael heads out the Springwater Corridor, bound for the Columbia River and the Glenn Jackson Bridge; and I map out another set of heritage trees to quest after.  I’ve finished the evergreens, so now I’m looking for trees that the catalog describes as best viewed in March.  I circle a group in north Portland, draw out the least inefficient route I can find, and then head down to Caffe Umbria for a cup and croissant while I wait for the day to warm up a bit.

First up is a pair of sycamore maples just south of Irving Park.  I know this tree already, from the neighborhood strolls I took from our Airbnb stays in northeast Portland last year.  This was in those relaxing days before I was under the burden of this arduous quest though - I was just admiring some fine trees in our immediate neighborhood, not on the hunt for a certified, listed Heritage Tree.

We can’t pass up such a cheerful looking LFL. I especially like the locomotive steaming out the right side.
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The poet’s corner: the two boxes contain copies of poems. The tree itself is appealing too - it reminds me of Yoda, or a smiling Buddha. I should have taken a photo of one of the poems, but didn’t think of it; and I don’t remember where this was so now I may never get back to it again.
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We’ve seen the sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) before, and maybe even this exact tree, in one of my pre-PHTQ neighborhood wanderings. This one, tree #122, stands a respectable 85 feet tall.
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The sycamore maple has such an attractive exfoliating trunk. An easy tree to recognize. It’s apparently unloved though - it’s on the city’s nuisance tree list, and it is no longer permitted on city property.
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Our next tree, a Canyon live oak, is well out of the way off to the east in the upscale, uphill Alameda neighborhood.  When I get there, it’s a bit of a disappointment.  It’s another of those buried in the heart of a private estate, its base hidden from view by a tall hedge.  it’s huge and impressive, and would be much more satisfying if I could get closer to it.  Unfortunately it’s the only tree of this species in the inventory so this is the best look we’ll get.

And, now that I write this up, it looks like I haven’t even found the right tree, because it’s obviously no evergreen.  The real live oak must be somewhere else behind that tall hedge. I guess I’ll have to swing by again some day and sleuth around a bit more.  Maybe I’ll be lucky and find someone on the grounds who will let me in.

In the Alameda neighborhood.
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The Canyon live oak (Quercus chrysolepus) is an evergreen, so I think this isn’t even the right tree. I took the photo because it’s on the right property and is very big, but who knows what it really is?
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The next tree, a Japanese Larch, is the first one that really excites me today.  And the guide is right - this is a fine time to view it.  It’s just beginning to bud out, so you can admire its delicate, lacey architecture and see its first green bursting open.  Really a beautiful little tree.

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The Japanese larch (Larix keampferi). In Japan it’s an important tree in forestry plantations, its wood used in general construction and fencing.
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The Japanese larch is another of those mysterious, unusual deciduous conifers. It’s cones may remain on the tree for many years, turning from light brown to grey-black as they age.
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An increasingly rare sighting: a VW bug. And a purple house.
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The many shades of spring.
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On Going Street.
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Here’s a tree we’ve seen a lot of recently, but not on our home turf: the Spanish Chestnut (Castaneda savita).
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The Spanish chestnut
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Chestnuts are such beautiful trees, in all seasons. We should come back for a look in the summer.
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The weeping willow (Salix babylonica) is one of those species almost everyone will recognize. I’m sorry we can’t get a better look at this one, but it’s the only instance in the catalog so we’ll have to make do.
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Bill ShaneyfeltAnyone living within 150 feet is at risk of sewer clogging!
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5 months ago
This flowering apple or pear makes a nice backdrop for our weeping willow.
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I was surprised to learn that the weeping willow is a native of China.
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The final two on today’s list are back to the west, along the River above Willamette Bluff.  Biking north along Willamette Boukevard, I’m delighted to see a familiar bicycle racing my way.  It’s the Straggler!

The Straggler, and its handler giving it the daily workout. It’s sure staying in great shape!
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A cluster of three Oregon White Oaks bring me to a spot I’ve never been to before, right above the bluff just west of Cathedral Coffee.  They’re sprawling in a corner of a large vacant lot that looks like an unofficial neighborhood park, next to a stately old mansion.  A plaque states that ‘Amos Benson kept these trees in front of his 1913 home’.  Later I’ll look up Amos Benson, a name that I don’t recognize but which makes me think of the old Benson Hotel.

I can’t find much information about Amos, but his dad is a big name here: Simon Benson was a Norwegian immigrant who settled in Portland and after making his fortune in the timber industry turned to philanthropy.  He’s known for the Benson Hotel, one of the first fine hotels in the city; the stylish Benson Bubblers (water fountains) that are still scattered through our downtown streets; the Columbia Gorge Hotel, in Hood River; and for preserving the parkland around Multnomah and Wahkeena Falls.

His son though at least preserved these three magnificent oak trees, for which we are thankful.  And we can admire his stately home - and even stay there!  The third floor is now rentable as an Airbnb listing.

The three Oregon White Oaks (Quercus garryana) preserved by Amos Benson.
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an Oregon White Oak, and a view across the Willamette to the west hills.
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A magnificent trio: the tree, the mansion, the bicycle.
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The view from the Amos Benson property is the best I’ve seen of the Willamette railroad bridge. I’ll have to make it back this way on a day when the lighting is better.
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The last tree of the day, this beautiful Oregon Myrtle, is tricky to find.  It’s another error in the catalog: its address is listed out on Portland Way, near Kelley Point; but the map correctly places it here on Rosa Parks near the bluff.  A beautiful tree, worth the hunt.

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The Oregon Myrtle (Umbellularica California). Odd pairing of its common and scientific names, isn’t it?
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The Oregon Myrtle.
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The guidebook is right on one point at least - this is an excellent time to view this tree.
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Keeping Score:

Group 1 (7 species):  grand fir, willow oak, hedge maple, Douglas fir, incense cedar, tulip tree, sugar maple.

Group 2 (9 species): silver maple, Japanese cedar, oriental plane tree, European beech, American chestnut, copper beech, mockernut hickory, basswood, butternut.

Group 3 (9 species): ginkgo, crape maple, northern red oak, deodar cedar, bigleaf linden, giant sequoia, coast redwood, Japanese pagoda tree, Mount Fuji flowering cherry.

Group 4 (8 species): Zelkova, Carolina poplar, Japanese red pine, Katsura, bur oak, river birch, catalpa, wych elm.

Group 5 (8 species): Monkey puzzle tree, western white pine, boulevard cypress, madrone, single needle pinyon, pecan, Coulter pine, Monterey pine.

Group 5-1/4 (2 species): Port Orford cedar, English yew

Group 6 (6 species): White fir, Atlas cedar, Cedar of Lebanon, Endlicher pine, Dawn redwood, Umbrella pine.

Group 7 (6 species): China Fir, Blue Atlas Cedar, Eastern White Pine, Ponderosa Pine, Sitka Spruce, Yellow Bellflower Apple.

Group 8 (5 species): Himalayan Pine, Gray Pine, Apache Pine, Italian Stone Pine, Loblolly Pine

Group 9 (6 species): Sycamore Maple, Japanese Larch, Spanish Chestnut, Weeping Willow, Oregon White Oak, Oregon Myrtle.

Dropped (3 species): Paradox Maple, which I couldn’t find and may no longer exist; and the Lacebark Pine and Bald Cypress, both of which were unapproachable and hidden in the middle of a large private woodland.

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