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Best trees for a San Diego school playground

Posted by janinegillot CA (My Page) on
Mon, May 17, 10 at 0:48

I'm on the playground committee at my daughter's elementary school in Vista and I'm hoping to convince the district to let us plant more trees around the playground. What we're looking for is: drought tolerant (native is a plus), fast growing, not too messy, and I think that's it. I was thinking of Catalina ironwood. Any other suggestions? Evergreen oaks (acorns would be fun to play with)?
I'm not sure what irrigation will be like. It will be near a playing field, but I don't know how easy it would be to tap into their water. And my idea is to plant a small grove of trees to be a little forest-like, and then add in some playground musical equipment to make a music garden.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Best trees for a San Diego school playground

Kids are going to climb any limb within reach. Though Fruitless Mullberry doesn't fit the not messy criterion, it grows fast, gives shade in summer/fall when needed [year round school, here in Esc. I assume also in Vista]branches can be trimmed way high to discourage climbing.

I wonder if a Torrey Pine would prosper in Vista? My folks have a huge tree in their Encinitas yard.

May I suggest that you go to Quail Gardens in Encinitas? [I will NEVER call it San Diego Botanical Gardens !!]They have wonderful selection of natives and the docent will probably give you some good ideas.

San Diego tree selection guide

You might also find help at the CA Urban Forest website.

Here is a link that might be useful: CA Urban Forests

RE: Best trees for a San Diego school playground

Hi Janine.
I hope you are able to find something that will fit your criteria and you can actually convince the school board and district to plant them. (Wish I had tree suggestions, but I am fairly new to the "planting" world.) I wish you good luck. I live in and will be having a little one starting school in Vista in August and am saddened to see so many trees cut down from schools. Especially around the playground area where the sun heats up all the equipment and makes it impossible for the children to safely play on it, due to it being too hot (think hot tush on a hot slide - no bueno).

IF, and that is a big "if", they dont go for the trees, maybe you can have a backup plan for shading the playground. A good example of what I am thinking is at Sunset Park in San Marcos. My daughter is quite sensitive to the sun and this playground offers the best chance at her getting to get out and climb and excersise.

I'll include the link to the park's website. It has a picture of the shading over the playground.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sunset Park San Marcos CA

RE: Best trees for a San Diego school playground

  • Posted by dis_ z9 CA (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 25, 10 at 23:37

Though fast growing I would not recommend the mulberry. I had a kingan fruitless in my front yard. It made wonderful shade but if you don't prune them the weight of the foliage and branches makes the droop almost to the ground and ours developed a split between two main limbs at the trunk. It also had surface roots that were a major trip hazard but that may have been due to shallow watering when it was young.

Most trees once established need only one really good deep watering a month.

Messy trees are not necessarily bad. I loved playing in fall leaves when I was a kid. A deciduous tree marks the seasons; something I think would benefit the kids.

California sycamore would be a good native choice. They have a nice spicy smell. They are wind resistant and not prone to dropping limbs or breakage.

I second the suggestion on oaks.

RE: Best trees for a San Diego school playground

I'd second the non-recommendation for mulberry. My kids' preschool had one and although it was lovely and shady, it is also a highly, highly allergenic tree and one which can cause the development of allergies in children who are frequently exposed to it.

In fact, it's not a bad idea to do some research about allergenic trees in general. Public areas tend to be planted with "no mess" trees, which means mostly male (pollen producing) trees. Good luck!

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