Not so ‘everyday’ trees bring life and color to Delta

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A student walks by a ginkgo biloba tree on Delta’s Stockton campus and thinks nothing of it.

However, there is much to appreciate about the trees, as well as many other of the tree species on campus.

Delta Horticulture student Natalia Castillo has a fondness for trees, noting that most trees are capable of providing more than just oxygen.

According to Castillo, one such useful tree species is melaleuca linarifolia, which lives in the Demonstration Garden on the north side of campus.

“It’s used for tea tree oil, it’s great for shade, and it’s an evergreen tree, so it drops its leaves continuously and it provides a great mulch for the lower habitat,” said Castillo.

Another campus tree species, umbellularia californica, has overlooked yet interesting properties. Also known as the California Bay, the species is related to the Mediterranean Bay Laurel, the leaves of which are typically used for cooking.

The California Bay tree’s oil contains the tryptamine bufotenin, which has the well-known psychedelic drug DMT (dimethyltryptamine) in its chemical structure. Popularly known for being licked off the backs of poisonous frogs, bufotenin is regulated in the U.S. as a Schedule I drug.

Horticulture professor Michael Toscano has been teaching at Delta since 1995 and thinks that many campus tree species are undervalued.

“We have ginkgos on campus, and to a lot people the ginkgo is a regular tree, but it’s actually a living fossil; they got samples of ginkgo leaves from when the dinosaurs were running around,” said Toscano.

Not only does the ginkgo biloba species itself defy death. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center Reference Guide, its members also live longer than any other species’, with a single tree capable of living “as long as 1,000 years.”

Trees of many species are capable of living for hundreds of years—under the right conditions. However, Toscano says that some of the trees on Delta’s main campus were poorly selected for Stockton’s climate.

“I think we need to preserve species of trees that are critical for student learning; redwood is not one of them,” said Toscano.

“They’re designed for 100 inches of water. If you notice, we’re lucky to get 20 inches of water.”

“So when people say ‘save the redwood, save the redwood,’ it’s in the wrong area,” Toscano continued. “They’re gonna die anyways.”

Meanwhile, Toscano has seen at least one unique tree species lost due to construction mistakes.

“There was a tree we called the Bunya-Bunya—had a ten-pound fruit—they accidentally took it down,” said Toscano. “They weren’t supposed to, but they took it down when they put the new Science building up.”

The Bunya-Bunya pine (araucaria bidwillii), also known as the “monkey puzzle” tree, has yet to be replaced with another. However, Facilities Manager Stacy Pinola is currently seeking a substitute.

“Any trees that get taken out with projects, are in the way with things, we try to replace somewhere else on campus,” said Pinola. “I’m very cautious about what has to come down, what doesn’t have to come down… it affects everybody.”

Pinola says that some campus trees may never be removed. “The trees on the front are off-limits,” said Pinola. “Those were here with the State hospital, and if one of those trees needs to come down, that’s gonna be a media circus.”

For students who don’t know, the land on which the main campus was built had formerly featured California’s first State Mental Hospital.

Many of Delta’s trees survived the transition from hospital to college campus, including those located near the Yokuts and Pacific Ave. intersection.

“If you look up, one of the trees is actually wired together,” said Pinola. “They don’t want the tree to come down.”

Toscano said there are a lot of interesting tree species on campus.

“We have a wide variety of stuff out here,” T said. “Some of it is really unique, and some of it is just everyday trees.”