Inman Park’s Champion Trees

Yes, everyone knows that Inman Park has a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens).

But wait, there’s a lot, lot more.

Let’s focus on three metro champions located right here in the best neighborhood of them all.  First up, this beauty:

Located in Freedom Park, this southern hackberry or sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) is the second largest in Atlanta and a classic of its kind, with its pendulous, cascading branches.  Along with its cousin, northern hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), it’s not a favorite of homeowners, because of its warty bark and the eponymous berries that stain driveways and patios:

Note, however, that Native Americans not only ate the berries but also used a decoction of the bark and other ingredients to treat venereal disease — so there’s that. Another factoid: the Celtis group of trees is part of the Cannabaceae family of plants, i.e., a cousin of marijuana. Hmm.

Also proudly calling Inman Park home is this tall American holly (Ilex opaca), tied with three other hollies for second place on the list of champions. It hangs out in Springvale Park.

Like sugarberry, American holly is native to Atlanta.  Unlike the hackberries, it’s evergreen, as anyone who’s sung “Deck the Halls” certainly knows. The association of holly (whether European or American) with winter festivals goes back centuries to the Roman era. When the Pilgrims arrived before Christmas in 1620, they spotted the prickly leaves and red berries of American holly and undoubtedly took it as a good omen.

Finally, Inman Park is without question the home of Atlanta’s largest live oaks (Quercus virginiana).

Inman Park’s founder Joel Hurt is said to have planted 180 live oaks here.  He loved this species from the coastal plains of the southeastern states. It’s Georgia’s state tree, by the way, the pride of Low Country cities like Charleston and Savannah, and with specimens as old as 400 or even 500 years, live oaks are a living link to a lost world. You can find ours at the intersection Euclid Avenue and Elizabeth Street, and another hanging over the pond in Springvale Park.

© William Guion

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