Ballona Institute Publication April 2020

Santa Monica College Trees at the Clock Tower Courtyard: Environmental Studies
Conservation Biology/Applied Ecology, Field Botany
Geography, History, Philosophy, Ethics, Psychology, Economics

"Roy" Robert Jan van de Hoek
Santa Monica College
Santa Monica, California
April 1, 2020

          Grace Heintz (1976:27, 29, 108) informs us that Santa Monica College (SMC) had many kinds of trees at the 'Clock Tower' court area, which included California native trees, but also trees from around the world. During a repeated perusal of her book, TREES OF SANTA MONICA, I discovered several written passages about the trees in the courtyard area of the Clocktower.

Sadly, many more California native plants that once grew at SMC from the 1950s to 1980s are now extirpated (locally extinct) on the SMC campus.

Santa Monica College, in Los Angeles County, California, still has many kinds of trees, but the number of different kinds of trees declines each year. However, a great many trees have been lost. Most notably are the loss of native trees, but also many international trees from around the world have been lost. Trees are regularly removed over the decades to make way for new buildings, making the campus not environmental, nor sustainable, and thus a violation and impacting social justice and environmental justice, with regard to clean air and climate change issues, assisting the wealthy and discrediting the poor, women and minorities.

          In 1976, Grace Heintz wrote and published her baseline report on the trees of Santa Monica College (SMC). Here is the narrative of her report. Her comprehensive report was based in part from information shared by Robert Armacost, the first Botany Professor at SMC. Professor Armacost taught at SMC for more than 40 years and assisted both Grace Heintz and George Hastings with their respective books on the trees of Santa Monica. Robert Armacost was Botany Department Chairperson at SMC. Many botany courses were taught here. There is a street named for Professor Armacost just barely beyond the boundary of the City of Santa Monica, extending from Wilshire Boulevard to very near Olympic Boulevard in the adjoining City of Los Angeles. His family business of horticulture was possibly located on Armacost Street, however his home apparently was not on Armacost Street, but instead closer to the sea in Santa Monica. In the future I plan to do more of a biographical study of Robert Armacost, as an important teacher and naturalist of Los Angeles County, which encompasses the City of Santa Monica and her SMC campus.

Excerpted 1976 Baseline Report of Santa Monica College Trees by Grace Heintz

Page 25:
Entering the Campus from Pico near 20th Street, the tree on the right is a Eucalyptus viminalis with buds and fruit in threes. Next is a long row of Silk Oak (Grevillea robusta). In the yard of the Music Building is a Redbud. At the southeast corner of the Art Building stands an Evergreen Pear. (Pyrus kawakamii). On the north side of the brick utility building Weeping Bottle-brush (Calistemon viminalis) and Redbud. In the yard ....

On the east side of the Science Building is a Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) with long slender feathery foliage. Nearer the the street is a pyramidal Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroides). This native of China, once thought to exist only in fossil form, was discovered in the 1940's. It is related to our Coast Redwood which is the next tree farther back on the lawn. At the southeast corner of the building are three Brisbane Box (Tristania conferta), trees that resemble the Eucalyptus but have no lid on the fruiting capsule. In the corner by the stairs is a Lily of the Valley Tree or Flowering Oak, yet it is neither a lily nor oak but a tree from Chile called Crinodendron patagua. The smaller tree just .....

Page 26:
On the Pearl Street side of the Administration Building are two Mysore Figs (Ficus mysorensis), members of the Mulberry family and native to India, and two London Plane Trees (Platanus acerifolia). In the yard between the Administration Building and the Liberal Arts are Evergreen Pear and Red Ironbark .....

In the parkway at the end of the driveway is a Desert Gum (Eucalyptus rudis). Another Cork Oak is seen on the lawn near the driveway. At the entrance to the Liberal Arts Building are Olives, one on each side. .......

North of the steps is a row of 'miniature' trees which are related tot he oleander. This is even called Yellow Oleander (Thevetia Peruviana ....

Page 27:
Now enter the court between the Bookstore and the Little Theatre. Here one comes upon three unusual Brachychiton which Mr. Hastings thought were hybrids. ......

Beside the door to the Health Offices is the Pineapple Guava (Feijoa sellowiana). Opposite is Podocarpus gracilior. .....

The shrubs along the walk on the Southside of the Faculty Cafeteria are India Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica). The trees in the clock tower area are Sycamores. Some are Western Sycamores with fruit hanging in threes or fours on a zig-zag axis; The others are London Plane Trees with larger one or two fruits. The London Plane leaves are three-lobed while the Western ones are five-lobed.

In front of the library is an Evergreen Pear and three Lemon-scented Gums. South of the clock tower is an Olive and a Chinese Elm. The shrub by the English Offices which bears red leaves and catkins is a Queensland Poplar (Homalanthus populifolius, a member of the Euphorbia Family. There is also a small Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergiana), Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrent), the tree with the leaves in flat planes. Next are two Natal Coral (Erythrina human) native to South Africa. A Ginkgo is found in the southeast corner of the court. The leaves are so like the maidenhair fern it is sometimes called Maidenhair Tree. This is a male tree. The female tree has such evil-smelling fruit it is seldom grown. (There is one in the County Arboretum). The surprising thing[s] is that the seeds are sweet and resinous, and edible. The tree can be grown by cuttings, grafting or layering so only male trees need be propagates.

At the northwest corner of the Sciences Building, are a Bailey Acacia and Chinese Juniper. In the court north of the Science Building are cedars, .....

Page 28
Along the north wall is a double row of shrubs, those to the rear tall, those to the front trimmed. The shrubs at each end of this row are natives found in our local mountains, Christmas Holly (Hetermoles arbutifolia.. Those in the middle .....

In the Music Building yard the tree nearest the amphitheater is found in only two other places in the city, Pink Cedar (Acrocarpus fraxinifolius). ........

Continue around the amphitheater: ahead are Sycamores, ....

Page 29:
To the west are three Kafir Plums (Harpephyllum caffrum) a member of the Sumac family with edible fruit. ...... The purple-flowered bottlebrush shrub to the west is Callistemon 'Jeffers'. [Note photograph of the Clock Tower is on this page 29, at the end of baseline SMC tree report by Grace Heintz, which shows the time as 2:28 p.m. with trees all around, students sitting and walking, and no plaque at the base of the tower, which assists us in bracketing the date of the photograph.

          The Californian native tree, California Sycamore, also known as the Western Sycamore, now appears to be extirpated from Santa Monica College, as is another California native tree, our Giant Sequoia Redwood. A North American native tree, our Bald Cypress is also now extirpated (locally extinct) at on the SMC campus. Two California Native Plants, both small trees/shrubs, in the genus, Ceanothus, present in 1956, were gone by 1976, possibly due to the new library construction? And what happened to two other California native plants, also a tree-like bush in the Sumac family, known by the fascinating name of Sugarbush and Laurel Sumac, both in the same genus of Rhus, but the generic names have been changed around by some botanists.

George Hastings (1875-1964) made the first list of trees of Santa Monica College in 1956. And then, virtually 20 years later in 1976, Grace Heintz made a new list of trees of Santa Monica College, essentially providing us with a second baseline. And 13 years later in 1989, Grace Heintz provided us with a third baseline of the trees of Santa Monica College. Interestingly, the City of Santa Monica dedicated a plaque to both George Hastings and Grace Heintz in Palisades Park. Since the city of Santa Monica honored Grace and George and they both lamented the loss of trees in Santa Monica, one wonders why the City and College are not replanting the same trees lost again at Santa Monica College and in other parts of the City of Santa Monica?