This American elm at 1111 SW 10th Ave. was named Portland's first historic tree in 1973. It came to the city by a ship that traveled around South America. It was planted by the Martin Burrell family in front of their house in 1870, and it has survived construction of new buildings and the laying of pavement around it.
This massive Japanese maple is probably about as old as the 1907 house that sits in its shade at 2367 NW Kearney St.
This Japanese cedar at 6232 NE Stanton St. is a rare sight in Portland. The Japanese gather the branches of these cedars when they start a new batch of sake; when they turn brown the sake is ready to drink.
This is probably the only single-needle pine in the city of Portland; it was planted from a seed collected in Nevada by author Lambert Florin at 5227 SE Tolman St. Its cones produce edible, nut-like seeds.
This yellow poplar at 1431 NE Weidler St. was planted by George Nicolai in the 1890s in front of what was then his house. Now, the tree towers over a commercial district.
The Port Orford cedar in front of Portland City Hall was one of a pair until a wind storm blew down its companion. Reynolds said the city wanted to cut this one down for safety reasons, but a local arborist fought to keep it alive.
Portland's largest coast redwood is in the process of wrapping itself around the power line at 860 SW Vista Ave.
This European beech was planted around 1890 and saved by architects, who designed Portland State University's Millar Library so it forms a semicircle around it.
This grand fir towers over the city of Portland. You can see it from the Fremont Bridge ramp, from Portland State University and from the middle of downtown. It's location on a steep hillside covered in blackberries makes it hard to reach, however. Though grand firs are native to Portland, few remain on city streets today.
I couldn't help including this little gem – decorated for Valentine's Day in a crosswalk on Naito Parkway. It is the only tree in the world's smallest park.
In 1990, Portland resident Phyllis Reynolds published a book dedicated to the “Trees of Greater Portland”; For the new edition she just released, Reynolds revisited all the trees from the first book and found 75 percent of them are still standing.
“Oh, it was just incredible how much they’d grown in 20 years – in girth alone,” she said.
The new edition features photos and measurements of 137 species of trees in Portland: A Doug fir that’s at least 242 feet tall, a 103-year-old giant sequoia with a trunk measuring 31.5 feet around, an American elm planted in 1870, China firs that will grow back after you cut them down, and big white oaks that survived because of – not in spite of – benign neglect in North Portland.
I’ve highlighted a few of her findings in the slideshow above – including a redwood wrapped around a utility pole, a building wrapped around a beech tree, and a Port Orford cedar that was saved from being cut down in front of Portland City Hall.
The idea for Reynolds’ first book came from a protective love of trees.
“I thought, ‘Let’s see if we can save some trees by putting them in a book,’” Reynolds said. “It just kills me to see trees threatened by development.”
She drove around the city looking for interesting trees, photographing and measuring them and meeting their owners.
“I drove, and drove, and drove,” she said. “I would cruise the city – back and forth – looking for trees. All the trees in my book are visible from the street.”
Reynolds said big, native trees are rare because they generally aren’t equipped to survive in an urban setting.
“Urban trees are appealing because they’re survivors,” she said. “The average age of a downtown tree is 10 to 15 years old. The older trees down there have survived all this gunk in the air; having asphalt over them, and all sorts of junk under the streets, too.”
Photographing urban trees is a tall order – quite literally.
“It’s terrible,” she said. “You get people, cars and power lines. But that’s the whole thing. It’s part of the deal.”
You can find her book at the Hoyt Arboretum and at the Audubon Society of Portland.