San Francisco natives like to talk about the fact that they were born here. It’s like they’re a rare species threatened by invasives on their little peninsula. If trees could talk, this blue elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) would probably give you an earful about it, too.
“The tree is believed to be a genetic remnant of San Francisco’s original flora, pre-(European) settlement,” explains Mei Ling Hui, the Urban Forest Coordinator from San Francisco’s Department of the Environment. “People think the seed it grew from was unearthed and sprouted after the road was cut around Bernal Hill as part of a WPA project.”
Okay, so it’s not a majestic-looking tree — it kind of looks like a big bush. But it’s an important one to the City. In fact, it’s one of San Francisco’s landmark trees. The Landmark Tree Program protects the city’s old, interesting, or special trees. We have lots of nice trees in San Francisco, but like many of our nice humans, most of them aren’t from here.
Bernal’s blue elderberry is like a time capsule. When you look up at it — it’s in the tangle of blackberries where Folsom dead-ends into Bernal Heights Blvd. on the north side of the hill — narrow your vision a little. Ignore the eucalyptus, and the radio tower, and the airplanes going by, and treat yourself to a glimpse of really old San Francisco.