Cambrian: Opinion

Holiday lights highlight some historic local trees

The deciduous dawn redwood looks majestic even in its present stage. Spring brings its needles, and fall its lovely henna color.
The deciduous dawn redwood looks majestic even in its present stage. Spring brings its needles, and fall its lovely henna color. Special to The Cambrian

Through a grant approved by the Cambria Tourism Board and funded through the San Luis Obispo County Business Improvement District, a small committee of volunteers from the Cambria Historical Society bedecked three local trees with bright (low-energy) lights.

At the west end of Main Street, visitors to our town are greeted by a colorfully lit Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) sponsored by Cambria Chamber of Commerce.

It is gratifying to see so many shops, big and small, joining in the holiday spirit with their lights and decorations. Perhaps this will inspire even more participation next year to delight locals and the many tourists who come to Cambria during one of our best seasons.

Marking the western edge of early-1880s Cambria is a coast redwood growing adjacent to the Bluebird Inn, which at the time was George Lull’s two-story house. The sequoia sempervirens is also lit under the CTB grant for Christmas, though it has been overshadowed by the stately Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) on the other side of the Bluebird’s office.

Standing close by is an unusual mature cow itch tree (Lagunaria patersoni), also known as the pyramid tree, pink hibiscus and the Australian Christmas tree.

How apt that the native of Queensland, Australia, traditionally puts forth delicate pink blooms in December. The burr-like seeds are said to have plagued cattle so much it was given the whimsical appellation.

I should mention at this point that the botanical information comes from a 1986 treatise (pardon the pun) printed by the late Millie Heath, who with Bill Wagnon “searched out trees to be lighted for our Christmas celebration promoted by the Chamber of Commerce. Properties were being sold and developed rapidly then and I thought it would be a real loss to our ‘Old Town’ if these special trees were cut down.”

She approached several groups (unsuccessfully) for funds to research, fertilize and groom, and facilitate signage, which was ultimately provided by Village Lumber. Two dedicated Cal Poly students, Michelle Gill and Michael Monahan, made it their senior project with their Horticulture Department adviser, Dr. Woody Frey. Millie worked tirelessly herself to “make it happen,” and also credits Dale Perry, Elly Larabee, Dr. Shaw, Mrs. Louise Squibb, and our own Sharon Lovejoy!

The Historical Society subsequently made a reprint of the self-guided tour of the trees, which the current membership may be enlisted to include online and as part of the historic structures project. Festively lit as Cambria’s East Village official Christmas tree, the Port Orford cedar (Chamaecypari lawsoniana) is featured in the document. A native of the Oregon forest, it was planted by Sarah and Samuel Guthrie about 1905 in the front yard of their Center Street home, now the historical museum. (The CTB grant funded lights and installation this year.)

Next month, the Historical Society will go into greater detail about the remaining Canary Island palm near the Burton Inn, and the coast redwood in the front yard of the Olallieberry Inn. But most notable is the deciduous dawn redwood, a short walk up Wall Street, west of both Linn’s restaurants.

The Cambria Historical Society salutes those who planted, cultivated, nurtured, and those who continue to respect our heritage of the natural environment. May the blessings of abundant rain fall upon our community in 2014.