One of my favorite cityscape discoveries was made while at the University of Utah in the School of Architecture. For some of my undergraduate electives, I was able to take a couple of natural science classes, and one of my favorites was on the subject of Utah trees and shrubs taught by a wonderful man who loved his subject.
This professor of botany was appropriately named Flowers, and we students affectionately called him Doc Flowers. I understand he passed away a few years ago, and though he is missed, I suspect he left behind numerous students like myself who still remember his understanding and love for trees.Yes, big wonderful trees of every imagined color, size and description. Despite his age and somewhat frail stature, he had a way of always being one step ahead of his students both physically and mentally. His sense of humor in teaching and his love for the subject always kept us fascinated with what would come next.
On one occasion Dr. Flowers and his flock of 30 or so students were marching around Liberty Park when one of the students came across a 20th century imitation of a leaf lying in the grass. It was green plastic and looked reasonably valid. Knowing that Dr. Flowers possessed a healthy sense of humor, the students took the plastic leaf over to him and asked him to identify it.
Several of us were in on the prankish gesture, and we all grew very fidgety when it occurred to us that Dr. Flowers might be confused with the imitation as he examined it for what seemed an eternity. It looked like he was stumped when all of a sudden a big grin came across his face and he said: "This is the common species of Greenus plasticia."
In honor of Dr. Flowers, and all of those who love trees, I felt that it would be a worthy subject to simply list some of the most venerable of the trees that are found within our state. Some will be easy to find, others might require a bit of sleuthing to turn them up, but I guarantee that each one you identify will be a reward that will stick with you and your detective companions for a lifetime.
This list was given to me by Lloyd Siegendorf, chairman of Utah's Heritage Tree Commission. The primary purposes of the register is to recognize particular trees with historical significance, uncommon size and rare or unusual species, as a valuable natural resource worthy of protection.
* FREMONT POPLAR: This tree was planted in the early summer of 1863 by President Brigham Young while walking on his farm. The farm is now Fairmont Park and the tree is a magnificent specimen.
* HONEY LOCUST: Many locust trees were planted by the pioneers from seeds brought from Eastern states. They sprouted in the spring of 1849 or 1850, and this tree at 979 E. Eighth South is one of the finer of the pioneer locusts remaining in the city.
* RED OAK: This tree was planted at 100 S. Sixth East by Salt Lake City's Shade Tree Department in 1940. The tree was dedicated to Rufus D. Johnson, Salt Lake's first shade tree warden and prime mover of the shade tree program from 1922 to 1950.
* NORWAY MAPLE: This is the first documented Norwegian maple planted in the Salt Lake Valley. It was planted at 1135 E. Sixth South about 1916 by Mr. Treganza of Treganza and Wade Architects. It has been reported as being the "mother tree" for many other Norway maple trees in the valley.
* AMERICAN ELM: In 1873, two American elms, furnished by the George Washington Centennial Committee, were taken from the parent American elm tree under which Gen. Washington stood when commissioned commanding general of the American Army. They were planted on each side of the south front entrance to the Utah State Capitol.
* WESTERN BOX ELDER: Planted in 1855 by Afton Gunnell as a sapling taken from the mouth of Red Butte Canyon.
* OSAGE ORANGE: Planted in the 1860s at 1530 S. 11th East as a source for pioneer wagon single-trees and double-trees.
* BLACK WALNUT: Planted at 1151 Michigan St. in the middle 1850s by William Wagstaff. The Wagstaff walnut is a fine example of natural growth, meaning that it has been allowed to rise some eight stories by not trimming the lower branches.
Other trees to look for:
A black willow at 100 E. First South in Logan. A catalpa at Fourth North and Main streets in Springville. A red juniper at 451 S. Main in Springville. An Engelmann spruce at the corner of Maple and Main streets in Mapleton. A silver maple at 31 W. Maple Street in Mapleton. A silver linden at 86 E. Fourth North in Springville. A pecan tree at 176 N. Toquer Blvd in Toquerville.
One more story about Dr. Flowers: The class was on another field trip in the Avenues, standing under two magnificent trees that were different from anything I had ever seen before. Dr. Flowers gently walked up to the biggest of the two and put his arm around its girth and patted it like an old friend and said:
"This is a beech tree." And then he reached down and gently touched some seedlings that were sprouting under the huge umbrella and said: "And these are little sons of the beech."
When I look at a magnificent tree today my heart leaps and I recall Dr. Flowers and his fall of 1965 class tramping around the cityscape identifying these creations that are wonders to behold and understand.