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Yosemite Nature Notes 



Broadleaved Trees of Yosemite 
National Park 



This booklet, designed as a com- otherwise sombre nature of our coni- 

panion to "Cone-bearing Trees of ferous forests. Furthermore, it will be 

Yosemite," will aid Park visitors in obvious even to a casual observer 

the completion of a study of the trees that there is a considerable concen- 

of this area. Although the forests of tration of broadleaved trees in Yose- 

Yosemite National Pork are primarily mite Valley which, although but a 

coniferous (1), one will find a number small part of Yosemite National Park, 

of broadleaved species which em- is the section most frequented by the 

body specific interest due to the majority of visitors. Thus, to a large 

character of their spring floral dis- number of people, the broadleaved 

play, their form, the odor of their trees attract attention out of propor- 

foliage, the color of their foliage in tion to their relative abundance in 

the fall, the nature or color of seeds Yosemite forests. 

and the manner of seed dispersal, The California black oak, which 

their habitat, and similar factors, occurs in abundance in the Valley, 

These things render them conspicu- is of significant importance in this 

ous, thus serving to highlight the regard, particularly in the fall when 

(1) Thirty-five species of trees grow naturally in Yosemite National Park. Eighteen, the 
greater part of this number, are broadleaved. However, while this group is in the majority 
insofar as number of species is concerned, Yosemite forests are essentially coniferous in type, 
being dominated by the sixteen species of cone-bearing trees which are found here in much 
greater abundance. In addition the California torreya (Torreya californica), which possesses 
needle-like, evergreen foliage but which is not a cone-bearing tree, is native to Yosemite National 
Park. Because of the similarity of its foliage to that of many conifers a description of that species 
will be found in the booklet on cone-bearing trees. 

Attention should also be called to those trees which are not native to the Pork but which 
were introduced into the area during the pioneer period. Included in this category are the 
American elm, black locust, sugar maple, and a number of varieties of fruit trees — largely apple. 
The latter are found principally in three orchards on the Valley floor which were planted during 
the 60's by James C. Lamon and James M. Hutchings, early settlers in this greg, (See page 30). 


the acorns are conspicuous features, 
and when its foliage assumes the 
rich golds and browns characteristic 
of the season. Likewise the Pacific 
dogwood is distinctive, not only in 
the spring when it is festooned with 
numerous large white blossoms, but 
also in the fall when it bears clusters 
of bright red seeds, and when the 
foliage takes on a characteristic au- 
tumnal red. Other species possess 
outstanding characters of a similar 
nature which attract their share of 
visitor interest. The foliage of the 
California laurel gives off a penetrat- 
ing, pungent odor when bruised; the 
holly-like leaves of the canyon live 
oak rarely fail to attract attention; 
and the quivering of the long-stem- 
med leaves of the aspen is a familiar 
sight in the "high country." 

Leaf Fall and Autumnal Color of 

With few exceptions the broad- 
leaved trees of Yosemite National 
Park lose their leaves in the fall. This, 
and its related phenomena, is the 
result of the tree's preparation for 
winter for as the season approaches, 
deciduous trees must necessarily be 
ready to withstand its rigors. These 
preparations are largely to prevent 
excessive transpiration, since abnor- 
mal loss of water may result in the 
death of the tree. They are respon- 
sible for the vivid fall colors charac- 
teristic of the foliage of many decidu- 
ous trees, the annual loss of foliage, 
and the development of many fea- 
tures useful in winter identification. 

During the summer the leaves 
serve as places of food manufacture. 
As autumn approaches, practically 
everything of nutritive value to the 

tree is gradually transferred to other 
parts and the leaves soon become 
mere skeletons, their cells containing 
only pigments which are of no further 
use. These pigments are responsible 
for the fall colors. 

Leaf fall, most obvious of the de- 
ciduous tree's preparation for winter, 
is anticipated weeks before the oc- 
currence of this event. By midsum- 
mer a layer of loose cells begins to 
form across the base of the leaf stem. 
When complete it extends entirely 
across the stem at the point where it 
joins the twig, except for the vascular 
bundles which must necessarily re- 
main open to facilitate the transpor- 
tation of food and moisture. Subse- 
quently an additional layer of corky 
cells form under the one previously 
developed. With the advent of fall, 
with its rains and frosty nights, small 
crystals of ice develop between the 
two cell layers. These exert a prying 
action which snaps the leaf from the 
twig. The leaf scar, which would 
otherwise have remained as an open 
wound, is protected by the corky cell 

However, this is but one episode 
in the tree's preparation for winter. 
By midsummer the buds, conspicuous 
on the naked twigs in winter, ore 
formed. These contain the rudimen- 
tary foliage or flower parts destined 
for development in the following 
summer which are protected by 
scales, waxes, gums, or hairs. In ad- 
dition growth is retarded and finally 
ceases, the recently formed tissues 
are "hardened," and the bark of the 
twigs and branches is increased in 
thickness through the addition of 
corky tissue. 


Ident-ification of Decidious Trees 
In Winter 

Such preparations are responsible 
for the development of a variety of 
features by means of which one may 
readily identify deciduous trees in 
winter primarily by an examination 
of the naked twigs. Varying with the 
species, in a manner similar to the 
more familiar foliage, flowers, or 
fruits, one finds buds of distinctive 
form and protective devices placed 
in typical positions on the twigs, leaf 
scars of distinctive size and shape 
with their vascular bundle scars 

(from one to many) arranged in spe- 
cific patterns upon the surface, and 
stipule scars which are present on 
the twigs of certain species. In ad- 
dition one may note the color, taste 
and odor of the twig, the nature and 
number of the lenticels in the bark, 
the color and character of the pith 
found in the central portion of the 
twig, and the bark itself. The form 
of the tree is also of assistance in 
winter identification. This has many 
variations, from an upright pattern 
(as in the case of the Pacific dog- 
wood) wherein the trunk or central 

'^Tom drawing by C. frank Brockman 

1. WILLOWS. Twigs slender, round in cross section. Leaf scars alternate, U-shaped and narrow, with 
three bundle scars. Buds sessile {not stalked), small, oblong and with but one exposed bud scale. Pith 
round in cross section and small. 

2. BLACK COTTONWOOD. Twigs moderately stout, slightly angular in cross section. Leaf scars 
large, alternate, broadly crescent shaped to triangular, with three bundle scars. Buds sessile, elongated, 
conical, gummy and fragrant, with 6-7 overlapping scales. Pi/h rather unull, somcuhat S-angled in cross 

5. WHITE ALDER. Tuigs slender, somcubat i-sidcd in cross section. Leaf scars alternate; half 
round, raised, with three bundle scars. Buds large and stalked, with 2-3 reddish-broun laltafe {not 
overlapping) scales. 


axis of the tree is continued through 
the crown, to a wide-spreading type 
(as in the California black oak) in 
which case the trunk divides into sev- 
eral large limbs. 

Beauty of Deciduous Trees 
In Winter 

The beauty of our deciduous trees 
in winter should not be overlooked. 
Even though devoid of foliage at that 
time the rigors of that season lend a 
distinctive charm to these trees. This 
is of particular importance in areas 
such as Yosemite Valley. Here, after 
a snow storm, the naked branches of 

the California black oak are often 
sheathed with a coating of snow 
which presents a glistening pattern 
against the background of a blue Si- 
erra sky. On such occasions these 
trees contribute, in no small measure, 
to the development of a veritable 
fairyland of exquisite beauty. 

Plan and Organization of 
This Publication 

The descriptions of the broadleaved 
trees found in Yosemite National 
Park, as noted on the following 
pages, are presented in a style de- 
signed primarily for the layman. In 

friim draning by C. Irjiik Bruikiiiiiii 

4. CALIFORNIA BLACK OAK. Twigs moderate to slender, often fluted. Leaf scars alternate, moder- 
ate to small in size, half round .;;;</ someuhat raised, with numerous bundle scars. Clusters of several buds 
at tip of twin; lateral buds solitary. Buds sessile (not stalked) with ot erlapping, scales arranged in fne 
ranks. Pith small and someuhat star-shaped in cross section. 

5. BlGLEAl- MAPLE. Twigs stout. Leaf scars opposite. U-shaped, and with U9 bundle scars. Buds 
sessile, stout, blunt, ui/h 3-4 pairs of oterlapping scales. Set rral buds clustered at tip of tuig: lateral 
buds solitary. 

6. PACIIIC DOGWOOD. Twig\ slender. Leaf stars opposite, narrow, crescent or U-shaped with three 
bundle scars. Leaf scars encircle twig, are commonly raised during first winter on petiole bases — later 
sluff off at level of twig. Buds solitary, stalked, oblong, with pair of vallate scales. 


addition to the descriptive text, with tification. For those who wish to 

accompanying illustrations, a simple pursue this subject to greater lengths 

field key (see page 37) is also includ- the list of selected references (see 

ed to serve as an aid in quick iden- page 40) will be of particular value. 

y'^ Za 

\« / 

Photo by Ansel Adams 

Yoscmiie Valley oaks iti iiiiilcr 


Salix spp. 

Willow Family — (Salicaceae) 

Although about fifteen species of 
willows are native to Yosemite Na- 
tional Park, where they are found 
growing from the low foothill zone to 
the frigid upper slopes of the Sierra 
peaks within the Arctic-alpine Zone 
(1), but three species can be consider- 
ed as attaining tree stature. These 
are the Pacific willow (Salix lasiandra 
Benth.), also known as the yellow or 
western black willow, the red willow 
(Salix laevigata Bebb.), also known 
as the polished or smooth willow, 
and the Scouler willow (Salix scoul- 

eriana Barrett). The first named is 
perhaps the most common. It can be 
readily found along the banks of the 
Merced River in Yosemite Valley (2). 
This is a difficult group of plants 
and the person not trained in botany 
will have difficulty in determining 
the various species. However, as a 
group they possess certain well de- 
fined and readily recognized charac- 
ters with which most people ore 
familiar and which can be readily 
noted even by casual observation. 
Thus, to most people the identity of 

Typical uillow foliage (Inch squares on background) 

(1) Alpine willow (Salix petrophila caespitosa) is one of the more interesting high altitude 
plants of Yosemite National Park. It is rarely more than 4-6 inches high and can be found on 
moist slopes in the vicinity of limberline. 

(2) Three others — the heartleaf willow (Salix cordata), the arroya willow (Salix lasiolepis), 
and the Hind's or sandbar willow (Salix hindsiana) sometimes assume the stature of tall shrubs 
cmd may occasionally be regarded as small trees. 


"willow" is usually sufficient and this 
group is treated in that fashion. 

All willows are deciduous trees or 
shrubs with simple, alternate leaves. 
The staminate (male) and pistillate 
(female) flowers are borne on differ- 
ent trees in narrow, elongated clust- 
ers known as catkins. The fruit is a 
capsule which contains many seeds, 
each bearing a tuft of hairs at the 
base, by means of which the seeds 
are dispersed by the wind. The bark 
has a bitter, quinine-like flavor. The 
leaves, which are generally elonga- 
ted, have a pair of peculiar ear- 
shaped growths (stipules) at the base 
of the leaf stems. The buds are dis- 
tinctive in that they are characterized 
by a single bud scale. The leaf scars. 

left upon the twigs after the foliage 
has dropped in the autumn, are U- 
shaped and narrow with three vas- 
cular bundle scars upon the surface. 
The buds, with their single scale, and 
the leaf scars are particularly good 
characters for winter identification. 

The twigs of various species of 
willow were once widely used by 
the Indians of the Yosemite region in 
the manufacture of many types of 

For detailed, specific descriptions 
of the various species of willows 
found in this region the reader is 
referred to the several texts noted in 
the list of selected references on page 

Populus trichocarpa Torr. & Gray — Willow Family (Salicaceae) 

Although not a tree of particular 
beauty, the black cottonwood is one 
of the most easily recognized of our 
broadleaved trees. It is rarely found 
above 4,500 feet and is common in 
the Yosemite Valley, Wawona, and 
Hetch Hetchy areas where it grows 
along streams or in moist meadows. 
Numbers of fine specimens can be 
readily found along the Merced River 
in Yosemite Valley. Several are 
growing on the bank of Yosemite 
Creek which borders the cabin area 
of Yosemite Lodge. 

Young trees, as well as the bran- 
ches and upper trunk of mature speci- 
mens, are characterized by smooth, 
pale gray bark which assumes a dark 
gray, heavily ridged and furrowed 
character on old trunks. In the latter 

case the bark is occasionally as 
much as two inches thick. The larger 
trees, which may attain an age of 
from 60 to 90 years, are 80 to 90 feet 
tall and from two to three feet in di- 
ameter. In most instances the trunks 
are free of branches for a distance 
of from one-half to two-thirds of their 
height, with a short, ragged, open 
crown characterized by heavy, up- 
right branches. These branches are 
quite brittle, or "brash," and often 
snap off during periods of high wind 
or heavy snow. 

The thick, leathery leaves, finely 
toothed along the edges, are from two 
to seven inches long, broad at the 
base and tapering to an acute point. 
They are shiny green on the upper 
side, pale to silvery-white beneath, 


ctnd are further characterized by 
large, conspicuous veins. Mid-veins, 
and often the slender round leaf 
stems, are sometimes slightly hairy. 
In the fall before dropping from the 
tree the leaves assume a dull, yel- 
lowish-brown color which, although 
suffering by comparison with the fall 
color of the California black oak and 
Pacific dogwood, nevertheless adds 
a note of interest to our fall color dis- 

Perhaps its most interesting char- 
acters are the flowers and seeds. 
Staminate (male) and pistillate (fe- 
male) flowers are borne on different 
trees. The former, which bear the 
pollen, are produced in great num- 
bers in dense, pendent, tassel-like 
clusters (aments) one to two inches 
long. The latter, also borne in pen- 
dent aments, are more loosely clus 

Vholo by Anderson 

Black cotfonu'ood in Yoscmite Valli- 

Vbolo by Bnnkmjii 

I oliagc ami svcih of blai k < u/ldiin <<<«,/ ( jnih njiiarcs on backfiroiniJ) 


tered. At maturity they are four or 
five inches long and appear as grape- 
like clusters of round, green globules, 
each one containing a multitude of 
tiny, brown seeds to which are at- 
tached a number of soft, cottony fila- 
ments by means of which the seeds 
are wind dispersed. It is to this 
character that the tree owes its name. 
In midsummer when the green ssed- 
laden capsules open, the air is filled 
with these wind-borne seeds and the 
ground in the vicinity of these trees 
is often covered with a thick, downy 
carpet of "cotton." 

The twigs are slender to moderately 
stout, sometimes slightly angular, and 
vary in color from orange-brown to 
greenish-brown. The buds, similarly 
colored, are as much as three-quar- 

ters of an inch long, narrowly conical 
with six or seven overlapping scales, 
but their most distinctive characteris- 
tic is the presence of gummy, frag- 
rant resin. Leaf scars which, with the 
twigs and buds, assist in winter iden- 
tification of this tree are large and 
conspicuous, being slightly raised, 
broadly crescent-shaped to triangu- 
lar in outline (sometimes three-lobed), 
and alternate, with three large vas- 
cular bundle scars appearing there- 

The natural range of the black Cot- 
tonwood includes an extensive area 
of the Pacific west — from southern 
Alaska and the Yukon south through 
British Columbia, Washington, cmd 
Oregon to southern California. 

Populus tremuloides Michx. — Willow Family (Salicaceae) 

As one of the most interesting trees 
of the higher elevations in the park, 
the aspen is rendered conspicuous 
by the character of its bark, which is 
generally smooth and white, and the 
habit of the leaves quivering in the 
slightest breeze. 

Park visitors who remain on the 
Valley floor will not have the pleas- 
ure of observing the graceful beauty 
of this tree for it is found in the Cana- 
dian and Hudsonian Zones, rarely 
growing below 5,000 feet. It will be 
most readily noted along the Tioga 
Road in the vicinity of Yosemite 
Creek, on the Glacier Point Road near 
Bridalveil Creek or in the vicinity of 
Badger Pass, along the trail between 

Nevada Falls and Merced Lake, 
about Washburn Lake, and between 
Glen Aulin and Waterwheel Falls. 
Aspen Valley owes its name to the 
groves of this species in that area. 

Although generally smooth and 
white (sometimes with a cream-col- 
ored or light green cast), the bark is 
often marked with numerous black, 
wart-like protuberances. On older 
trees it is generally rough and dark 
brown at the base. The slender limbs 
are irregularly bent and stand out 
straight from the trunk. Where aspens 
are found in the open the limbs form 
a loose, narrow, dome-like crown that 
extends throughout most of the tree's 
height. However, the aspen is very 



intolerant of shade and under crowd- 
ed conditions it produces a very long, 
slender trunk with a small rounded 
crown occupying but the upper third 
of the tree's height. 

It prefers moist, sandy, mineral 
soils and thus is most commonly 
found along streams and canyon bot- 
toms where it often forms attractive 
groves. Under such conditions it rar- 
ely fails to gain the admiration of the 
passerby for what it lacks in size it 
overcomes in grace and beauty. 

The aspen is not a large tree, the 
maximum height being about 50 to 
60 feet and the diameter 12 to 30 in- 
ches. It is also short-lived, rarely 
being more than 50 to 60 years old. 
Trees 10 to 14 inches in diameter 

average about 30 to 40 years of age. 
The leaves, almost round in outline 
and ending in a definite point at the 
apex, are one and one-half to three 
inches in diameter, and edged with 
small, regular serrations or teeth. 
They are shiny and smooth, deep yel- 
low-green above and lighter on the 
underside. The most distinctive char- 
acter of the leaves, however, is their 
habit of fluttering in the slightest 
breeze. The reason for this is readily 
accounted for by the long leaf stem 
or petiole (one and one-half to three 
inches in length) which is flattened 
from the sides. The specific name, 
tremuloides, was applied because of 
the quivering habit of the leaves. It 
also accounts for the common name 
of quaking aspen. 

holiagc and floucn of quaking asprn (Inch iquarcs on background) 



Interesting at any time of the year 
because of its many outstanding 
characteristics, it is at its best in the 
fall. At that time the sombre, green 
clad mountainsides of the upper ele- 
vations are enlivened by brilliant 
patches of bright golden yellow and 
orange as the foliage of the aspen 
assumes its characteristic brilliant 
shades preparatory to dropping from 
the tree in anticipation of the winter 
season. Fall arrives early at altitudes 
frequented by the aspen, being at its 
height in September with the first 
signs of autumn occasionally being 
evident as early as late August. 

As in the case of all members of 
the willow family the staminate (male) 
and pistillate (female) flowers of the 
aspen are borne on separate trees, 
occurring as pendent, tassel-like 
clusters (aments). Staminate clusters 
ore one and one-half to two and one- 
half inches long; pistillate clusters 
are four inches long at maturity, bear- 
ing numerous elongated capsules 
containing many tiny seeds attached 
to conspicuous cottony filaments 
which aid in the dissemination of the 
seeds by the wind. 

It is one of the most widely distrib- 
uted North American trees, occurring 

Photo by AnJerson 

Bark detail on aapeii 

from the northern-most extent of tree 
growth from Labrador westward to 
Alaska, and southward at progres- 
sively higher elevations into the 
southern Sierra Nevada and Rocky 
Mountain regions. 



AInus rhombifolia Nutt — Birch Family (Betulaceae) 

This is one of the most common 
trees of the Transition Zone where it 
is found in considerable abundance 
in moist sandy soils bordering 
streams, up to 4,500 feet in elevation. 
It is particularly common at Happy 
Isles, about Mirror Lake, in many 
places along the banks of the Merced 
River in Yosemite Valley, while Alder 
Creek near Wowona owes its name 
to the abundance of these trees at 
certain locations along its course. 

The white alder can be readily 
identified by its smooth, steel-gray 
bark (on young trees) which become 
scaly and ridged with age, and the 
conspicuous, cone-like features — one- 
quarter to one-half inch long — which 

bear the seeds, and which are known 
as strobiles. 

The leaves are alternate on the 
branches, are large (one and one- 
half to two inches wide and from two 
to three inches long), a dark lustrous 
green on the upper surface, ovate in 
outline with coarsely toothed margins 
and prominent veins extending to the 

Both staminate and pistillate flow- 
ers, while borne in separate clusters, 
are found on the same tree. Both are 
partially formed in the summer pre- 
vious to maturity. The former are con- 
tained in long, pendent, tassel-like 
clusters which are very conspicuous 
in the late winter and early spring 

Photo by Brockman 

Foliage and strobiles of white alder {Inch squares on background) 



Photo by Brorkman 

Bark of mature alder 

before the opening of the leaves. At 
that time they are from four to six 
inches in length. The latter first ap- 
pear as small green affairs contained 
in loose clusters of three to four in 
number, later enlarging to oblong 
compact, green "cones." At that time 
they are about one-half inch in 
length. The white alder is a prolific 
seed producer. The seeds, contained 
between the scales of the strobiles, 
are mature by midsummer but are 
not liberated until the following win- 
ter, or even spring. At that tims th") 
"cones" are hard, woody, and black. 
After liberating the seeds they often 
litter the ground below the trees or 

remain hanging from the branches 
for a considerable time, thus furnish- 
ing a ready clue to the identity of the 
white alder throughout most of the 

Newly produced twigs are smooth, 
chestnut-brown in color, more or less 
triangular in cross section, and char- 
acterized by widely separated, elon- 
gated specks. The crown is broad 
and open with long branches, droop- 
ing toward their ends, extending from 
the trunk. 

One of the best characters for win- 
ter identification of the white alder 
are the large buds. They are pro- 
duced alternately on the twigs, and 
like all alders, are stalked. No other 
broad-leaved tree in Yosemite Na- 
tional Park has stalked buds. In ad- 
dition to this distinctive feature, the 
buds are dark brown to dull red in 
color, are coated with a light colored 
fuzz, and the scales, instead of being 
numerous and overlapping, are only 
two or three in number and valvate 
in character. The leaf scars, some- 
what raised and half round in out- 
line, are characterized by three 
vascular bundle scars. 

It is a tree of rapid growth, and 
because it can endure considerable 
competition, often forms dense thick- 
ets. It is not a long-lived species and 
soon attains a maximum diameter of 
12 to 15 inches and a height of about 
50 feet. Trees of maximum size ore 
rarely over fifty years of age. 



Quercus kelloggii Newb. — Beech Family (Fagaceae) 

Park visitors should have no diffi- 
culty recognizing this tree. It is not 
only one of the most distinctive and 
beautiful trees in the park, but in its 
resemblance to the eastern black oak 
it possesses many of the characters 
typical of the oak group with which 
most people are familiar. It grows on 
benches and valley bottoms in dry, 
gravelly to sandy soils, from 3,000 
to 5,000 feet above sea level. It is one 
of the most common trees on the floor 
of Yosemite Valley where it forms 
picturesque groves of great charm 
and beauty. Here in autumn the rich 
color of its foliage, which ranges from 
tawny yellow to rich golden brown, 
is a highlight of that season. Upon 

unfolding in the spring the leaves are 
pink and velvety, soon changing to 
a glossy green as they develop to 
about four or five inches in length 
with the advent of summer. The under 
side of the leaves is a lighter green 
than the upper surface. They are 
borne alternate on the branches, 
are thin and deeply cleft into about 
seven lobes, each with one to four 
bristle-tipped teeth. 

The trunk is generally short and 
massive and free of limbs for only 
about ten to twenty feet above the 
ground. Large, heavy limbs branch- 
ing from the trunk form a broad, 
spreading, open, rounded crown. The 
bark on old trunks and the base of 







i*^ — "i ~ 


S\Hr 1 

Pholo by Bruckmtn 

Folidgi- and acnrtn of black oak {huh st/iiarcs on haikgroiinJ) 



large limbs is dark gray to black in 
color, hard, rough, and deeply fur- 
rowed. Small trees and the outer por- 
tions of larger limbs are character- 
ized by bark that is smooth and of a 
dull gray-brown color. Year old twigs 
are smooth and red to reddish-brown. 
The buds are alternate on the twigs; 
and, in addition, are clustered at the 
tips, are ovoid to conical in shape 
and covered with numerous five- 
ranked scales. The leaf scars, moder- 
ate to small in size, are half round in 
outline and characterized by nearly 
a dozen vascular bundle scars ar- 
ranged more or less in the form of an 

One of the most distinctive features 
of the California black oak are the 
acorns. These mature at the end of 

the second season and are produced 
in abundance at intervals of from two 
to three years. They are one to one 
and one-half inches long, a pale 
chestnut in color, and are possessed 
of a tawny brown, scaly cup. 

Acorns of this tree served as the 
principal source of food for the In- 
dians of the area in the early days. 
They were pounded into coarse flour 
by the Indian women. Numerous 
mortar rocks, scattered about the Val- 
ley, are reminiscent of the original 
residents of this area since they ore 
characterized by depressions brought 
about by that task. California black 
oak acorns are still gathered and 
utilized as food to some extent by a 
few of the older Indian residents of 
the Yosemite region. 

Pbolo by Ansel Adami 

Oaks on floor of Yosemite Valley 



All oaks ore wind pollinated. Thus 
these trees are rendered conspicuous 
in the early spring when, at about the 
time the leaves ore beginning to de- 
velop, they are festooned with numer- 
ous loose, pendent, tassel-like stam- 
inate catkins which bear the abund- 
ant pollen. 

Mature specimens of the California 
black oak are from 75 to 80 feet tall 
and one and one half to three feet in 
diameter. It is a moderately long- 
lived tree, attaining an age of about 
300 years. Large trunks of old trees, 
however, are rarely sound. These are 
generally characterized by decayed 
centers and are often broken at the 
top. Such specimens often furnish 

nesting sites for California wood- 
peckers and occasionally one will 
find a dead tree whose trunk and 
larger branches serves as a "storage 
bin" for these birds. In such instances 
these trunks are studded with holes 
in which acorns hove been tightly 

Another feature of interest relative 
to the California black oak is the 
abundance of mistletoe (Phoraden- 
dron villosum) found in these trees. 
This, a parasitic plant, appears as 
loose, bushy clusters, one to three feet 
in diameter, among the branches. It 
is particularly noticeable during the 
winter when the tree is barren of 

Quercus chrysolepis Liebm. — Beech Family (Fagaceae) 

This tree is also known as the 
golden cup oak because of the hand- 
some acorns, one-half to one and 
one-half inches in length, which are 
characterized by scaly cups densely 
covered with bright yellow wool. The 
acorns mature at the end of the sec- 
ond year, and while a few are pro- 
duced annually, large crops are 
common only at infrequent intervals. 

Several additional features render 
it of particular interest. It is one of 
the evergreen broadleaved trees of 
the Park and the leaves, which ore 
alternate on the branches and oblong 
in outline (about three inches long) 
persist for three or four years. They 
have a thick, leathery texture, are 
smooth and yellow-green above, and 
when young are covered with yel- 
lowish down on the underside. They 

vary considerably in size and ap- 
pearance on trees of different age — 
in fact occasionally on parts of the 
same tree. Leaves of larger trees or 
older branches are generally smooth 
along the margin but young speci- 
m.ens, particularly vigorous shoots, 
bear foliage that has distinct spiny 
edges not unlike holly in appearance. 
This feature causes many park visi- 
tors to mistake young canyon live 
oaks for holly — a plant not found in 
the Yosemite region. 

Mature specimens are generally 
from thirty to sixty feet tall with a 
short, heavy trunk two to three feet 
in diameter characterized by dark, 
flaky bark. Thick, heavy branches 
produce a wide spreading crown. 
However, this tree varies widely in 
size. In exposed locations at the 



upper altitudinal limits of its range 
it assumes a scrubby character. 

The canyon hve oak is found be- 
tween the 3,000 and 6,000 foot eleva- 
tions. It thrives in protected canyon 
bottoms, a fact responsible for its 
common name, and has a particular 
affinity for the talus slopes and rock 
slides bordering such places. It is 
one of the most abundant trees in 
those places about Yosemite Valley 
and will be readily found along the 
lower parts of trails leading from the 
Valley floor to the rim — as in the case 
of the Yosemite Falls trail, the Four 
Mile Trail to Glaciar Point, about 
Happy Isles, and along tV^e trail from 
that point to Nevada Fall. 

It is a slow growing but fairly long 
lived tree. Mature specimens attain 
an age of from 200 to 300 years. 

Photo by Anderson 

Typical trunk of can you live oak 

PI'olo by Brockman 

Foliage and acorns of canyon live oak {Inch squares on background) 



Quercus wislizeni A DC — Beech Family (Fagaceae) 

This species is found in the foot- 
hills and open valleys along the 
western boundary of the park up to 
about the 2,000 foot elevation. It is an 
evergreen tree. The foliage is dense, 
shiny, and of a rich green color (yel- 
low green on underside), with indi- 
vidual leaves being from one to three 
inches long, of leathery texture, and 
with the margins being either entire 
(smooth — not toothed) or character- 
ized by spiny teeth. The acorns, one 
to one and one-half inches long at 
maturity, are generally conical, ta- 
pering at the apex, and enclosed at 

the base by reddish-brown, scaly 
cups. The tree is usually from 30 to 50 
feet tall and one to three feet in di- 
ameter, with a short trunk and wide 
spreading branches which produce 
a broad, rounded crown. 

As it is very rare in Yosemite Na- 
tional Park it will not often be found 
in this area by the average visitor. 
However, it is abundant in the foot- 
hills to the west and will be readily 
noted along the approach roads to 
the park which pass through that 

l-oliagf and atoms of inferior liic oak (Inch stfiiarii on background) 



Quercus douglasii Hook & Arn — Beech Family (Fagaceae) 

This tree is found in the foothills 
along the western boundcfiy of 
Yosemite National Park up to about 
2000 feet in elevation. It is character- 
ized by the blue-green color of its 
foliage, which accounts for its com- 
mon name, and the smooth appear- 
ing, light ash-gray, flaky bark. It is 
a small tree, averaging 30 to 50 feet 
in height and twelve to sixteen inches 
in diameter. The stout trunk bears 
thick branches which form a compact 
crown. The leaves are deciduous, 
dropping from the tree during the fall 
and winter of each year. They are 

two to three inches long and one-half 
to two inches wide, and are quite 
variable in form for the margins are 
either entire (not toothed) or sinuately 
lobed (wavy). 

As the blue oak is very rare in the 
park it will not be found by the aver- 
age visitor in this area. Along the 
roads in the foothills to the west of the 
boundary, however, it is a common 
tree and can be readily noted as one- 
approaches Yosemite National Park 
from any of the principal nearby 
towns in the San Joaquin Valley. 

photo l'\ Brink man 

Foliage and acorns of blue oak (Inch squares on backgroiiiij) 



Umbellularia californica (Hook & Am ) Nutt. — Laurel Family (Lauraceae) 

This tree is rendered distinctive by 
the thick, glossy, short-stemmed, ever- 
green leaves which exude a pene- 
trating, camphor-like odor when 
crushed. The leaves are alternate on 
the branches, three to six inches long, 
and from one-half to one and one- 
half inches wide at maturity. New 
leaves are produced throughout the 
summer and they persist on the tree 
from two to, occasionally, six years. 

In Yosemite National Park the 
California laurel, which is also com- 
monly known as pepperwood, Cali- 
fornia bay, and Oregon myrtle, is 
quite common in moist, rocky soils 
at the base of cliffs bordering canyons 
at elevations from 3,000 to 5,000 feet 

above sea level. It may be readily 
noted along the highway above the 
Arch Rock Entrance as well as along 
the lower portions of many trails 
leading from the Valley floor tc the 

It grows naturally along the Coast 
Ranges from southwestern Oregon, 
and inland from the Siskiyous in 
Oregon and the upper Sacramento 
Valley south along the Sierra to 
southern California at elevations 
varying from sea level (in the north) 
to 4,000 and 5,000 feet. In some ports 
of this range, particularly in south- 
western Oregon where conditions are 
suited to its best development, it is 
an important broadleaved tree and 

Pholo by Brockmnn 

Foliage and fruit of California laurel {Inch squares on background) 



may reach three feet or more in diam- 
eter. However, in Yosemite National 
Park it is a small tree. Here, although 
larger specimens may be found, it is 
usually twenty to thirty feet tall and 
rarely more than six inches in diam- 
eter with erect, slender branches 
forming a loose, open, and narrow 
crown. It often takes the form of a 
many-stemmed shrub ten to fifteen 
feet tall — particularly in moist, 
shaded locations along streams in 
protected canyon bottoms. The bark, 
smooth on young trees and scaly on 
old trunks, is thin and varies from a 

dull greenish-brown to reddish-brown 
in color. Smaller branches are light 
green in color. 

Loose clusters of small, rather in- 
conspicuous yellow flowers appear 
in the spring. The interesting, yellow- 
ish-green fruit — which resembles 
a large olive in appearance — is a 
conspicuous feature in the late sum- 
mer and early fall. It consists of a 
large, thin-shelled, light brown seed 
surrounded by a thick, fleshy cover- 
ing. It is ripe about October, at which 
time it drops from the tree. 


Prunus virginiona var. demissa (Nutt.) Torr. — Rose Family (Rosaceae) 

Although this species, which is clusters of white flowers, or its fruit, 

found up to 5,500 feet, is not of great often attracts the attention of Park 

importance in the forests of Yosemite visitors. In rich soil of protected loca- 

National Park; its dense, elongated tions it occurs singly or in small 

Pholo by Brockman 

Foliage and flowers of chokecherry {Inch squares on background) 



crroups as a slender, crooked-stem- 
med tree from twenty to twenty-five 
feet tall. In drier, less desirable situa- 
tions it sometimes forms shrubby 
thickets four to ten feet tall. 

Although new twigs are green, the 
color of older bark is a light reddish- 
brown to gray, smooth, except on 
older and larger trunks, in which case 
it is rough and irregularly seamed 
with reddish-brown scales. The 
leaves which are one to three and 
one-half inches long at maturity a^e 
thick, somewhat leathery, and a deep 
green, being shiny on the upper side 
and paler beneath. The edges of the 
leaves are characterized by numer- 
ous short teeth. 

The attractive white flowers, each 
about one-half inch in diameter, are 
borne in compact, cylindrical clusters 
from two to four inches in length. 
Each cluster contains from 20 to 50 
blossoms and on the Valley floor 
they are generally evident in June. By 
late summer the fruit ripens. How- 
ever, this is eagerly sought after by 
birds and so it is generally devoured 
before it is fully ripe. When mature 
the fruit is characterized by a dark 
purple color. 

Bruised twigs, leaves, and the bark 
of young twigs possesses a strong 
characteristic odor. The name choke- 
cherry is derived from the fact that 
the fruit has an astringent after taste. 

Prunus subcordata Benth — Roce Family (Rosaceae) 

Although generally a stocky, 
crooked-stemmed shrub two to ten 
feet tal: when growing in poorer soils, 
this species sometimes attains tree 
stature in locations suited to better 
development. In such cases it reach- 
es a height of from 15 to 20 feet and 
attains a diameter of from four to six 
inches. It does best in sandy, fertile 
soils along stream borders and simi- 
lar moist situations. In the Yosemite 
region it may be noted along the road 
in the Wawona area, about Big Mea- 
dows, and in the Hetch Hetchy sec- 

It is characterized by a short, thic''. 
trunk having ashy-brown, seamed 
bark. The limbs are heavy, ext3nd at 
light angles from the trunk, and pos- 

sess numerous short, stubby twigs. 
Twigs of the season are red to purple- 
red in color and are generally 
smooth. In the spring the tree bears 
white flowers about one-half inch in 
diameter, which appear just before 
or at about the same time as the 
leaves, in loose clusters of two to four. 
The leaves, when mature, are one to 
three inches long, almost circular in 
outline, and with numerous small 
teeth along the margin. The fruit is 
tart but edible, a deep purple-red in 
color, and about three-quarters of an 
inch to one inch long. Enclosed within 
the flesh of the fruit is a distinctive 
flat seed with a thin, keel-like edge 
along one side and a groove along 
the other. 



Acer macrophyllum Pursh — Maple Family (Aceraceae) 

This common tree can be readily 
recognized by even the most casual 
observer by its large, characteristic 
leaves. Although it may be found as 
high as 5,500 feet in elevation in 
Yosemite National Park, it is most 
common between 3,000 and 4,500 
feet where it grows in moist, gravelly 
soils upon hillsides, in protected lo- 
cations at the base of cliffs, or in the 
rich alluvial soils bordering streams. 
Its natural range includes an area 
along the Pacific Coast from south- 
eastern Alaska to southern Califor- 

Although it is not exceptionally 
large as a rule, it is a handsome tree. 
Mature specimens may attain a 
maximum of 80 feet in height ana 

two to two and one-half feet in di- 
ameter. When growing in the open 
the large, heavy branches produce 
a broad, spreading, round-topped 
crown densely covered with foliage. 
In less favorable situations it is char- 
acterized by a more ragged, less 
pleasing appearance. New twigs are 
smooth and green, while larger bran- 
ches have a pale grey or reddish- 
brown color. Gray to reddish-brown 
bark with hard, scaly ridges charac- 
terize the trunks of larger trees. Al- 
though it grows rapidly at first its rate 
of growth decreases with age. It 
reaches maturity in about 200 to 300 

The foliage is unmistakable. Borne 
on stems four to six inches long, the 

Photo by Brockman 

foliage and iccils of biglcaf maple {Inch squares on background) 



large leaves, which may occasionally 
be more than twelve inches across, 
ore especially noteworthy. They are 
borne opposite on the branches, are 
smooth and shiny green above, pale 
green below, and palmately divided 
into five broad lobes. 

Although the foliage of some of the 
eastern maples assume vivid hues 
before dropping from the tree in the 
fall, such is not the case with this 
western species. In autumn the color 
of its foliage is not particularly at- 
tractive, being generally character- 
ized by dull brownish to yellow 
shades. However, this maple has 
other interesting features, not the least 
of which are the large, pendent clus- 
ters (racemes) of fragrant yellow flow- 
ers which enliven the appearance of 
the tree during the early spring when 

the leaves are unfolding. These clus- 
ters, which include both staminate 
(male) and pistillate (female) flowers, 
are from four to six inches long. In- 
sects, which are attracted in great 
numbers to these flowers, serve to 
pollinate the blossoms. The charac- 
teristic fruit — a pair of nut-like seeds, 
each attached to a large blade-like 
wing — is fully developed by luly. At 
that time they are about one to two 
inches long. Their green color, typical 
of midsummer, changes to a light 
brown in the early fall. 

The bigleaf maple can be recog- 
nized in winter by the stout twigs with 
their opposite leaf scars. The leaf 
SCOTS ore rather large, V-shaped or U- 
shaped in outline, upon which are 
from five to nine vascular bundle 

Acer glabrum Torr. — Maple Family (Aceraceae) 

Although this species will be most 
generally noted as a tall shrub, the 
Rocky Mountain or dwarf maple oc- 
casionally attains the stature of a 
small tree, reaching a height of ten 
to fifteen feet and a diameter of three 
to four inches. It generally occurs in 
moist but poor gravelly to rocky soils 
in protected canyons and gulches up 
to about the 7,000 foot elevation. Hik- 
ers using the Ledge Trail will find it 
common in such situations along that 

The leaves, borne opposite on the 
branches, have slender stems one to 
five inches long, are one to three in- 

ches across, rather conspicuously 
veined, and are dork green and shiny 
upon the upper surface (paler below). 
They are three (occasionally five) 
lobed, with the edges oi the lobes 
coarsely toothed. The stems of the 
leaves are occasionally red. 

The winged seeds, which are about 
one inch in length, are borne in pairs. 
Before maturity they are a bright 
rose-red in color, changing to russet- 
brown before they ripen in late sum- 
mer or early fall. 

The trunk possesses smooth, red- 
dish-brown bark with a slight gray 
tint. Mature twigs are reddish-brown. 



Cornus nuftalli Audubon — Dogwood Family (Cornaceae) 

This is one of the most attractive 
of Yosemite trees. Its beauty in the 
spring, when it is characterized by 
grecrt numbers of large, showy, 
cream-white blossoms, vies with its 
attractiveness in the fall. At the latter 
season it is outstanding because cl 
the brilliance of its crimson foliaga 
and clusters of shiny red seeds. It 
has long been a highlight of interest 
in Yosemite National Park at those 
times, and many people make spec- 
ial trips to this area on such occas- 
ions primarily to enjoy the colorful 
spring and fall dogwood display. 

Although it is occasionally fouM/J 
as high as 7,000 feet it is most gen- 
erally noted at lower elevations. It is 
partial to moist, well-drained soils of 
mountain slopes and protected loca- 

tions in valley bottoms. One will note 
it in abundance along the Wawona 
Road, and along the Big Oak Flat 
Road, as well as in many sections of 
Yosemite Valley. In the latter place 
it can be most readily found about 
Happy Isles, in the vicinity of Fern 
Springs, and about the Pohono 

The Pacific dogwood is not a large 
tree. Mature specimens attain a 
height of from twenty to fifty feet and 
a diameter of from ten to twenty in- 
ches. The trunk is generally straight 
and characterized by smooth, thin, 
dull gray bark. The crown is narrow 
and is composed of short branches. 
As it is intolerant of dense shade the 
crown, when the tree is growing in 
the dense forest, is short while the 
trunk is long and clear. 

Photo by Brockman 

Foliage and flowers of dogwood {Jiich squares on background ) 



The leaves are borne opposite up- 
on the branches. They are from three 
to five inches long with the midvein 
and its branches conspicuously im- 
pressed upon the upper side. Numer- 
ous small, greenish-white flowers are 
borne in button-like clusters which 
are about one and one-half inches in 
diameter. These are surrounded by 
four to six showy, cream-white scales 
or bracts, often improperly regarded 
as "petals" — the entire flower cluster 
being thus considered as one flower. 
However, this is not the case. As 
stated, the flowers — possessing only 
stamens and pistils — are clustered in 
the center 'button." The showy scales 
which surround the flower cluster are, 
like the flower cluster, partially form- 
ed during the previous summer. 
They remain in this state until the 


[ mi 

















■ 1 ' 



Phulo by Broikman 

Foliage and fruit of dogwood 
(Inch squares on background) 

Vboto by AnitTion 

Pacific dogwood in early spring 

following spring when they develop 
fully along with the flowers. 

These showy, cream-white scales 
soon wither and drop from the tree 
and by midsummer the formation of 
the seeds, which vary from twenty- 
five to forty per cluster, is well ad- 
vanced. Although green at first, they 
change to a brilliant red by fall — 
usually in October. 

The natural range of this attractive 
tree includes a considerable area of 
the Pacific west — from Vancouver 
Island and the Eraser River valley in 
British Columbia south through west- 
ern Washington and Oregon to the 
San Bernardino Mountains of south- 
ern California — as well as along the 
west slope of the Sierra Nevada be- 
tween 4,000 and 5,000 feet above sea 




Aesculus californica (Spach.) Nutt — Horse chestnut Family 


Being native to the upper Sonoran 
Zone (1,000 to 2,500 feet), this tree is 
found only occasionally within park 
boundaries. It may be noted in the 
vicinity of the Arch Rock Entrance 
and at points along the western park 
boundary to Hetch Hetchy. Motorists 
journeying to the park will note nu- 
nnerous specimens along the high- 
way bordering the Merced Canyon to 
a point in the vicinity of El Portal, 
along the road from Fresno to a point 
above Coarse Gold, and in places 
along highway No. 120. 

While it often occurs as a shrub. 

ten to twenty feet tall with several 
stems arising from a common root, 
it also attains the stature of a small 
tree up to twenty five feet tall and a 
diameter of from eight to twenty in- 
ches. Its foliage, flowers, and fruit ore 
all distinctive and these fecrtures en- 
able one to identify it quickly and 

The large, long stemmed leaves 
which are borne opposite upon the 
branches are palmately compound, 
generally with five but occasionally 
with four to seven leaflets, each from 
three to seven inches long. When ma- 

Photo by Anderson 

California buckeye in fall with distinctive fruit 



ture they are bright green and 
smooth except for minute hairs in the 
angle of the veins on the pale under 
surface. The edges of the leaflets are 
characterized by numerous teeth. 

In the spring this tree is conspicu- 
ous because of its showy flowers. 
These vary in color from white to 
a delicate pink and are produced in 
large, erect clusters up to six inches 
long. It is also conspicuous in the fal' 
after the foliage has been shed. At 
that time the large, green, pear-shap- 
ed fruit, two to three inches long, can 
be seen hanging from the tips of the 
branches. Closer examination will 
reveci that the fruit consists of a 
large, glossy brown seed, sometimes 

nearly two inches across, enclosed 
in a thin husk of leathery texture 
which splits open upon maturity. 
Only rarely is more than one buck- 
eye enclosed within one husk. 

Although considerable effort was 
required in the preparation of the 
buckeye as a food due to its bitter 
taste, it was so used on occasion by 
the Indians which inhabited the lo- 
wer foothills. This was particularly 
the case at times when the acorn crop 
failed. In addition the soft, light, close 
grained wood was utilized, after care- 
ful seasoning, by the Indians in the 
preparation of equipment for mcV:ing 
fire by friction. 

Ph^h, hy ,\,,J,r,n„ 

North Donir anj the MerccJ Rncr in Winter 



Fraxinus oregona Nutt — Olive Fomily (Oleoceae) 

This is a rare tree in the Yosemite 
region and it will probably not b3 
noted within park boundaries by the 
average visitor. However, it is occas- 
ionally found along the western 
boundary in the vicinity of El Portal, 
and may be seen along the All Yea'- 
Highway in that area, growing iv. 
moist soils along streams. 

It is usually a crooked tree and 
rarely attains a size greater than 
twenty-five feet in height and six to 
ten inches in diameter. The bark is 
thick and soft, deeply furrowed and 

grayish-brown in color. The leaves 
are opposite on the branches, six to 
twelve inches long and compound — 
with from five to seven leaflets. These 
leaflets are each from one-half to 
one and one-half inches wide, oval 
in outline and often toothed above the 

Male and female flowers are borne 
on separate trees and appear before 
the leaves. The fruit, consisting of a 
small seed with an elongated wing, 
is borne in clusters and is from one 
to two inches long. 

Photo by Brockman 

Foliage and seeds of ash (Inch squares on background) 




Visitors to Yosemite National Park 
will note a number of interesting trees 
which were planted in the early days 
before this area became a national 
park (1) and which, although they 
are not native to this area, have been 
allowed to remain because of their 
association with the early history of 
the region. In this category fall the 
American elm, the black locust, and 
sugar maple, found in a number of 
places on the Valley floor, as well as 
several kinds of fruit trees. 

The latter are, perhaps, the most 
conspicuous and best known of these 
introduced trees. With few exceptions 
they are apple trees and, insofar as 
the valley is concerned, are contain- 
ed primarily in three orchards (2). 
One of these is included within the 
parking area near Camp Curry, a 
second will be noted in the meadow 
just east of the Yosemite Park and 
Curry Co. stables, and a third is in 
the vicinity of the Yosemite Park and 
Curry Co. utility area near the road 
between Yosemite Lodge and Gov- 
ernment Center. 

The first two orchards were planted 
by James C. Lamon, the first settler 

in Yosemite Valley. He arrived here 
in June 1859, located a pre-emption 
claim of 160 acres in the fall of that 
year and built a small cabin of logs 
near the present Yosemite Park and 
Curry Co. stables. His two orchards 
were planted soon after. Today they 
are composed almost entirely of ap- 
ple trees, although one pear tree can 
be found in the orchard near the 
stables. Apparently, in the early days 
they contained plum and peach trees 
as well (3). The orchard near the 
Company utility area was planted by 
James Mason Hutchings whc had re- 
turned to the Valley in 1 864 as a hotel 
owner (4). This orchard adjoined his 
residence, which he constructed on 
the north side of Yosemite Valley a 
few years later. Although the Hutch- 
ings residence was eliminated many 
years ago the orchard still remains. 
It consists mostly of apple trees, but 
a few cherry trees will also be found. 
Hutchings also planted a row of 
American elms along the route of the 
present road that crosses the mead- 
ow north of the present Sentinel 
Bridge. These were grown from seed 
supplied by Rev. Joseph Worcester 

(1) The Yosemite Valley area and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias — originally known 
as the Yosemite Grant— was entrusted to the State of California by the Federal Government in 
1864. Yosemite National Park, which included an area surrounding Yosemite Valley, was 
established on October 1, 1890. In 1906 the two areas comprising the original Yosemite Grant 
were receded to the Federal Government by the State and incorporated into Yosemite National 

(2) Apple trees will also be noted in the Wawona area. According to Mr. Ed. Gordon, old 
time Wawona resident, the apple orchard in that section was planted in the early days of 
George Conway. In addition to the orchard a few apple trees will be found in the rear of the 
Wawona hotel, as well as in the vicinity of the spring west of the meadow. These were planted 
by the Washburn Brothers about sixty year ago. 

(3) See Taylor, Mrs. H. J. Yosemite Indians and Other Sketches; San Francisco, California, 
Johnck and Seeger, 1936. pp. 15-26. 



of Waltham, Massachusetts (5). Of 
these trees only one remains. It can 
be found near the road intersection 
on the north side of the Valley oppo- 
site the Sentinel Bridge. 

American elms as well as black 
locusts will also be noted in the Old 
Village. Trees of the latter species 
will also be found in the pioneer cem- 
etery (near the Park Museum), in the 
vicinity of Camp Curry, and along 
the highway near the start of the 
Four Mile Trail. The black locusts in 
the latter place are reminders of the 
period in Yosemite history when that 
area was an important public center 
in the Valley (6). In addition two 
sugar maples will be found in the 
Old Village just east of the general 
store (7). 

photo by Anderson 
American din uiij hhuk Iih usf in Old Village 

(4) In June 1855 James Mason Hutchings, contemplating the publication of his "California 
Magazine," visited Yosemite Valley with several companions — among them the artist Thomas 
Ayres — for the purpose of gathering data and making sketches for publication. This is credited 
with being the first "tourist visit" to the Valley, since it was prompted wholly by interest in its 
scenic values. Several earlier journeys had been made to the region but the principal interest 
in such cases had been that of pursuing Indians, following the Indian trouble of 1850-51, or 
prospecting. It was from the meager reports of these earlier expeditions that Hutchings' interest 
was aroused. 

From the time of his first visit Hutchings always had a deep affection for Yosemite. In 1864 
he purchased the "Upper Hotel" (constructed by Beardsley and Hite in 1857-59), which was 
located on the south side of the road opposite the present Sentinel Bridge, and rechristened it 
"Hutchings House." It was later to become famous as Cedar Cottage, a name applied due to 
the fact that one of the many additions to the original structure was constructed about a large 
California incense cedar. See Russell, C. P. 100 Years in Yosemite; Stanford University Press; 
1931. pp. 99-125. 

(5) See Hutchings, J. M. In The Heart of the Sierras; 
land, California; 1886, pp. 134-138. 

Pacific Press Publishing House, Oak- 

(6) In 1856 Walworth and Hite undertook the construction of the first building designed to 
serve the needs of early visitors to Yosemite Valley. It occupied a site at the base of Sentinel 
Rock near the start of the present Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point. Completed in 1857, it thus 
became the first hotel in this area. In 1869 this original structure was dismantled by A. G. Black 
w^ho utiUzed the site in the construction of a new hotel. In the same year G. F. Leidig constructed 
another hotel nearby. Originally the Yosemite Chapel, built in 1879, occupied a place in this 
area, and the Guardian of the Yosemite Grant was located here for a time. In 1888 all these 
buildings were razed, with the exception of the Chapel which was moved to its present site in 
the Old Village. 

(7) These trees mark the site of the photographic studio, operated by Mr. and Mrs. J. T. 
Boysen, which was located at that point for many years. From information received from Mrs. 
Ellen St. Clair — daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Boysen — these trees were planted in 1902, 1903, or 
1904 from stock received from Vermont. 



These "outsiders" of the original 
generation remain among the natives 
by sufferance. It is the policy of the 
National Park Service to eliminate in 
so far as possible all exotic plants and 
animals which may gain a foothold 
in the national parks, but these living 
relics of pioneer days in Yosem!t3 
Valley may remain until Nature deals 
the inevitable death blow. They w 1' 

not be replaced except by their scat- 
tered progeny which may escape the 
watchful eye of the forester. In time, 
even the scattered progeny will suc- 
cumb to Nature's control. 

For those visitors who may wish to 
seek and identify the American elm, 
the black locust, and the sugar maple 
in Yosemite Valley, a description of 
these species follows. 

Ulmus amsricana L — Elm Family (Ulmaceae) 

This is one of the most noble and 
stately of native American trees. Its 
natural range includes a large part 
of the eastern United States and Can- 
ada — from Newfoundland south to 
central Florida, and westward to 
Manitoba and eastern Texas. It is 
one of the most familiar of trees in 
the New England states, and it was 

from that region (Massachusetts) that 
the seed which was planted by Hut- 
chings was secured. (See page 30). 
Since it grows best in rich, moist, 
alluvial soil in its native habitat, it 
found in Yosemite Valley a suitable 
environment. Many of the trees 
planted here now ore quite large and 
comoare favorably with those 

Vi.ulu by Bru.k 

loliunc and Mills of American dm (Inch squares on backf^rininil) 



in the east. Local elms are one and 
one-half to two and one-half feet in 
diameter and from fifty to seventy- 
five feet tall. The trunk, character- 
ized by dark, ash-gray bark, divided 
into numerous flaky ridges, separate:: 
into several large branches, ten to 
fifteen feet above the ground, to form 
a tall, graceful, vase-like crown. The 
flowers are produced in abundance 
in loose clusters, usually early in 
May, and the seeds are fully ripened 
before the leaves are completely 
formed. The seeds are small, flat, 
and completely surrounded by a thin, 
papery wing — seed and wing being 
about one-half to three-quarters of an 

inch in diameter. In the late spring 
they are found in great abundance on 
the ground in the vicinity of these 

The deep green leaves are alter- 
nate on the branches, oblong in out- 
line (about three to five inches long 
and one to five inches wide), tapering 
to a point at the apex. They appear 
lopsided due to the inequilateral na- 
ture of the base and are coarsely and 
doubly toothed along the margins. 
Prominent veins extend from mid-rib 
to the leaf margin. Their upper sur- 
face is coarse and rough to the touch, 
while underneath they are smooth 
but slightly hairy. 

Photo by Amct Adams 

Yosciiiifc (,7).'(/)i / jii OlJ \'illay,r. Location of nintirroiis introduced trees. 



Robinia pseudoacacia L. — Pea Family (Leguminosae) 

Although native primarily to the 
Appalachian Mountain area, this tree 
has been widely planted throughout 
many parts of the United States. 
Yosemite Valley was no exception 
and those planted here during the 
early days are now good sized trees. 
They vary from six to fifteen inches 
in diameter and, in some cases, are 
from fifty to sixty feet high. 

The black locust can be easily rec- 
ognized by the alternate, odd-pinnat- 
ely compound leaves, which are 
from eight to fourteen inches long, 
and which bear seven to nineteen 
sub-opposite rounded leaflets, each 
one and one-half to two inches long. 

As this tree is a member of the 
Leguminosae or pea family its flow- 
ers and seed pods are characteristic 
of that group of plants. The handsome 
white clusters of pea-like flowers ap- 
pear on the trees in June. Seeds, 
borne in elongated, dark brown, 
bean-like pods which are two to four 
inches long, are mature by late sum- 
mer or early fall. 

The trunk of this tree is short, di- 
viding but a little way above the 
ground into a number of stout branch- 
es to form an open crown. The bark 
is dark reddish-brown in color and 
deeply fissured — the numerous ridges 
having a characteristic twisted or 

Pholo by Brockman 

tolijgc and floucrs of black locust {Inch squares on background) 


"ropev" ctppeorance. The branches numerous stout, short spines or 
are characterized by the presence of prickles. 

Acer saccharum Marsh — Maple Family (Aceraceae) 

This is an important tree of the 
eastern states. It is, perhaps, best 
known for the maple syrup which is 
derived from the sap taken from the 
trees in certain sections of its natural 
range — particularly in the "sugar 
bush" of New England. The two 
specimens of sugar maple found in 
Yosemite Valley have not been so 

While the locally introduced sugar 
maples can be readily identified as 
maples due to the distinctive foliage, 
they are rarely recognized as distinct 
from the bigleaf maple which is na- 
tive to this region and which is pres- 
ent here in relative abundance (see 
page 23). These two species are su- 
perficially alike in general appear- 
ance, the principal differences be- 
tween the two being found in the 
leaves and the flowers. Although 
having relatively the same form, the 
leaves of the sugar maple are con- 
siderably smaller — being a maxi- 
mum of from three to five inches in 
width as compared to the much 
larger sized leaves of the bigleaf 
maple. The flowers of the sugar 
maple (greenish yellow and appear- 
ing at the same time as the leaves) 
are borne in corymbs, that is in loose 
clusters with the long stems of the 
flowers having a common point of 

Photo by AiiJenoii 

Tin Ilk dcttiil of siifiiir iiial'lc 

attachment on the twig. This arrange- 
ment is quite different from that of 
the bigleaf maple — its flowers are in 
racemes, elongated clusters with the 
flowers being borne upon short stems 
attached to a central axis. 

The two sugar maples found just 
east of the general store were planted 
about 1902, 1903 or 1904. They ore 
about fourteen inches in diameter 
and fifty feet tall. 



5 6 7 8 

From UcMinn aiiJ Maiiio: Pacific CoasI Trees. Courtesy of the Uniiersily of California Prea 

Parts, kinds, arrangements, and venation of leaves 

1. Stem with simple alternate leaf, uith iictteJ leiiation; b, hud; bl, blade; p, petiole; s, stipules. 2. Stem 
with opposite, palmately veined and lohed leaies. 3. Pinnately compound leaf; 1, leaflet; p, petiole; 
pt, petiolule; r, rachis. 4. palmately compound leaf. 5. Simple leaf uith parallel lenation. 6. Fascicled 
leaves; s, sheath. 7. Stem uith whorled leaves. 8. Strainht-veined leaf. 

12 3 4 5 6 7 

from McMinn anj Maino: Pacific Coait Trrti. Courtesy of the University of California Press 

Margins of Leaves 

1. r.ntire. 2. Serrate. 3. Dentate. 4. Crenate. S. Sintm/e. 6. Pinnately lobed. J.Palmalely lohed. 



This key considers only the gross characters of trees in question which can be readily noted 
by the layman. It is of the dichotomous type (regularly branching in pairs). Beginning with No. 1 
on the left one merely selects the character which fits the tree which is being studied. One is thus 
referred to the next pair of possibilities by the number noted on the right. Continuing in that 
manner the observer finally eliminates successive distinguishing characters until the identity 
of the tree noted is given. 

1. Leaves alternate 2 

1. Leaves opposite 14 

2. Foliage evergreen 3 

2. Foliage deciduous 5 

3. Margins of leaves not toothed; leaves with pungent odor when crushed. Fruit green and 


California laurel (see page 20) 

3. Margin of leaves often toothed and holly-like in appearance; fruit an acorn 4 

4. Cup of acorn covered with bright yellow "wool." Found from 3,000 to 6,000 ft.; 

common in rocky soils bordering cliffs 

Canyon live oak (see page 16) 

4. Cup of acorn not wooly but scaly; acorn conical. Found up to 2,000 ft.; very rare 

in park 

Interior live oak (see page 18) 

5. Leaves pinnately compound with from 7 to 19 subopposite rounded leaflets; flowers white, 
in clusters and pealike; fruit a pod with several seeds; twigs with short spines. An 

introduced tree 

Black locust (see page 34) 

5. Leaves simple, not compound 6 

6. Leaves large and deeply cleft into about seven lobes, each with four bristle-tipped 

points; fruit an acorn 

California black oak (see page 14) 

6. Leaves not deeply cleft 7 

7. Margin of leaves not toothed or sinuately lobed (wavy). Fruit an acorn. Found occasionally 

up to 2,000 ft.; very rare in park 

Blue oak (see page 19) 

7. Fruit not an acorn and foliage not as described above 8 

8. Leaves narrow and elongated Willows (see page 6) 

8. Leaves not as noted above 9 

9. Leaves more or less triangular in outline; broadest at base and tapering to a point at 
apex 10 

9. Leaves not as noted above; either ovate, oblong, or round in outline 11 

10. Leaves large, 2 to 7 inches long, margins finely toothed, thick and leathery in tex- 
ture, shiny green above and pale green to silvery beneath. Bark heavily ridged 
and dark gray on large trunks; pale gray on young trees. Common in moist soils up 

to 4,500 feet 

Black Cottonwood (see page 7) 

10. Leaves IV2 to 3 inches long, roundly tapering to a point at the apex; margin of leaf 
with small teeth; stem or petiole of leaf long and flattened from the side, causing 
foliage to flutter in slightest breeze. Bark generally smooth and white. Not found 

below 5,000 feet - 

Quaking aspen (see page 9) 



8 9 10 11 12 

From MiMinn anj Mjitio: Pucilii- Coast Trees. Courtesy of the Uniiersity of Californij Press 

Shopes of leaves 

1. Scale-like. 2. Awl-shaped. l.Linear. 4. Lanceolate. J. Oblong. 6. Elliptic. 7. Oval. 8. Orbi- 
ctilar. 9. Oiate. 10. Cordate. II. Oblanceolate. \2. Obovate. 

7 8 9 10 11 

from McMinrt and Maino: Pjtific Coast Trees. Courtesy of the University of California Press 

Tips and bases of leaves 

1. Acuminate. 2. Acute. ). Obtuse. 4. Truncate. 5. Etuarginatc. 6. Mucronate. 7. Rounded. 
8. Cordate or heart-shaped. 9. Auriculatc. 10. Oblique or unequal. 11. Cuneate or uedge-shaped. 


11. Leaves circular or almost so; margin with small teeth. Attractive white flowers approxi- 
mately one inch in diameter. Fruit (^^ to 1 inch long) deep purple-red in color and tart 

to taste 

Klamath plum (see page 22) 

11. Leaves not circular but ovate (widest below middle) or oblong in outline 12 

12. Margin of leaves coarsely toothed; prominent veins extending to leaf margins 13 

12. Margin of leaves finely toothed; leaves oblong in outline. White flowers (in spring) 

borne in compact, elongated clusters. Fruit a blackish berry 

Western chokecherry (see page 21) 

13. Leaves ovate in outline (1 to 2 inches wide, 2 to 3 inches long). Staminate flowers, com- 
mon in spring, in elongated pendent, tassel-like catkins. Seeds borne in small, distinctive, 
green (black after maturity) "cones." Bark steel gray in color and usually smooth. Common 

along streams 

White alder (see page 12) 

13. Leaves oblong in outline (1 to 3 inches wide, 3 to 5 inches long), doubly toothed on mar- 
gin, and lopsided at base. Flowers produced in loose clusters before unfolding of leaves. 
Seeds flat and entirely surrounded by thin, papery wing. Bark dark gray and ridged. 

An introduced tree 

American elm (see page 32) 

14. Leaves compound 15 

14. Leaves not compound 16 

15. Leaves palmately compound with five to seven leaflets, each three to seven inches long. 
Flowers in showy, white, elongated clusters. Fruit a buckeye. Rare in park but common 

along approach roads to park from San Joaquin Valley 

California buckeye (see page 27) 

15. Leaves pinnately compound. Seeds with elongated wings, borne in bunches. Very rare in 
park but found along lower parts of western park boundary; will be noted in vicinity of 

El Portal 

Oregon ash (see page 29) 

16. Leaves "maple-like", palmately divided into three to five lobes; winged seeds pro- 
duced in pairs 17 

16. Leaves not divided; oblong in outline. Large white blossoms conspicuous in spring; 

clusters of bright red seeds conspicuous in fall 

Pacific dogwood (see page 25) 

17. Leaves small, one to three inches wide; leaf stems occasionally red; winged seeds rose- 
red before maturity, changing to russet brown, about one inch long. Usually a tall shrub 

in gravelly to rocky soils in protected locations 

Rocky Mountain maple (see page 24) 

17. Leaves larger than above at maturity. Seeds larger. Flowers yellow-green in color 18 

18. Leaves large, sometimes twelve inches wide; fragrant yellow flowers in pendent, 
compact clusters (racemes). Seeds large, one to one and one-half inches long includ- 
ing the wing. The common maple of this region. 

Big leaf maple (see page 23) 

18. Leaves 1 to 3 inches wide at maturity; yellow-green flowers in loose, open clusters 
(corymbs). Seeds, including wings, rarely longer than one inch. Uncommon intro- 
duced tree 

Sugar maple (see page 35) 




Collingwood, G. H. Knowing Your Trees. Washington, D.C., The American Forestry Assn., 1937 
(Rev. 1941). 213 p., illus. 

Hall, H. M. and C. C. A Yosemile Flora. San Francisco, Calif., Paul Elder and Co., 1912. 282 p., 

Harlow, W. M. and Harrar, E. S. Textbook of Dendrology. New York, McGraw-Hill Book Co., 
1941. 542 p., illus. 

Jepson, W. L. A Manual of the Flowering Plants of California. Berkeley, California, University 
of California, 1925. 1238 p., illus. 

McMinn, H. E. An Illustrated Manual of California Shrubs. San Francisco, Calif., J. W. Stacey, 
Inc., 1939. 689 p., illus. 

McMinn, H. E. and Maino, Evelyn. An Illustrated Manual of Pacific Coast Trees, Berkeley, 
California, University of Cahfornia, 1946, 409 p., illus. 

Sargent, C. S. Manual of the Trees of North America. Boston, Mass., Houghton Mifflin Co., 1933. 
910 p., illus. 

Sudworth, G. B. Forest Trees of the Pacific Slope. Washington, D.C., U. S. Government Printing 
Office, 1908. 441 p., illus. 

Trelease, Wm. Winter Botany. Urbana, Illinois, pub. by author, 1925. 396 p., illus. 

Phot,, /.> AnJeno,, 

Ymeniitr \1«m7/;« /jjs ^ju-riiil tirr room c\hibil. 





Yosemite National Park, Caliiomia 

Organized for the purpose of 

cooperating with the National Park Service by assisting the 
Natuiahst Department of Yosemite National Park in the 
development of a broad public understanding of the geology, 
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in Yosemite National Park and nearby regions. It aids in the 
development of the Yosemite Museum and library, fosters 
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Subscription includes all 
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Revenue derived from the activities 
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