When you think of trees in Cambria, what comes to mind? Cambria pines? Sure, we have lots of them around. But, what are those other trees you see when you walk around East Village? Well, let’s take a little tour and see.
Near the southeast corner of the Guthrie–Bianchini property which is the location of the Cambria Historical Museum (near The Blue House) stands a magnificent Port Orford Cedar tree. Usually not found this far south, this tree was planted by the Guthries around 1900. As they often grow for 500 years reaching heights up to 180 feet this specimen is considered to be young.
Directly across the street, in front of The Cambria Pub and Steakhouse, is a coast redwood (sequoia sempervirens). Although this is California’s state tree and there is evidence that it has thrived in California for millions of years, it requires a very special climate to grow naturally. It prefers the humid conditions of the Pacific Coast where fog is prevalent with mild winters and moderate summer temperatures. So, while it does not occur naturally in Cambria, it does quite well here. There is another coast redwood on Main Street just west of the Blue Bird Motel office. There is yet another coast redwood on Main Street in front of The Ollalieberry Inn. This one was planted in 1905 by the German pharmacist brothers Otto and Charles Manderscheid who started Cambria’s first drug store which they operated from their home.
On Bridge Street, just uphill from its intersection with Wall Street, is another Sequoia. It’s located across the street from The Bridge Street Inn and Living Waters Christian Fellowship Church and is easily seen from Main Street. According to Roger Dobkowitz, this is a Sequoia Giganteum which is the type of Sequoia usually found in Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks as well as other places in the Sierras. He believes that tree must be quite old (around a hundred years) because it is beginning to lose the typical pyramidal shape that these sequoias have only until they get to be around a hundred. He says it is a magnificent specimen and we agree.
If you wander up Wall Street just before it makes a sharp turn to intersect Bridge Street, you can see a Dawn Redwood (metasequoia glyptostroloides). This tree was thought to be extinct, represented only in fossil leaf and cone prints from Japan and Manchuria. In 1941 a Chinese forester named Gan observed three Dawn Redwoods in the village of Modaogi in Szechauan Province in China. After a number of seed collecting missions, two Chinese botanists, Hu and Cheng, named the new species. E. D. Merrill, director of The Arnold Arboretum at Harvard secured seeds from Professor Cheng in 1946. Two years later, Dr. Ralph Chaney, a paleobotanist at U. C. Berkeley and Milton Silverman, science writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, brought back seeds and seedlings distributing them to botanic institutions across North America. Dr. Chaney kept eight seedlings for himself but, despite careful nurturing, only four of the seedlings survived. Three were planted at U.C. Berkeley and one of them was given to Mrs. Florence Thatcher, a relative of Dr. Chaney, to plant in Cambria where it survives to this day.
Just east of the Bluebird Inn office on Main Street you can see two unusual trees. One is a Monterey Cypress (cypress macrocarpa), many of which were planted in this area in the 1870s. This particular specimen was planted in 1905. The other is a Cow Itch Tree (lagunaria patersonii) planted in 1935. Native to Queensland, Australia, the Cow Itch Tree is part of the mallow family. It has burr-like seeds which were said to have plagued the cattle in its homeland thereby giving the tree it’s common name. During the summer and early fall it is covered with beautiful, hibiscus-like blooms.
Finally, on Burton Drive in front of Burton Inn there’s a Canary Island Palm Tree (phoenix canariensis). Many of these palm trees were planted along Burton Drive but this is the only one remaining. Several were removed by gardeners to be transplanted to the grounds of Hearst Castle. Another specimen can be seen on Main Street at the Palms Motel.