Autumn in Rotterdam: a Tree Tour

I hardly have to tell the reader why it’s good to have trees in the city. They purify the air, they absord CO2, they make it slightly less hot in the summertime and they retain water after heavy rain showers.

And of course they also make things more beautiful. This decorative function is most obvious in two periods: spring and autumn. Trees that in previous months were fairly inconspicuously bare or green, suddenly burst out into a feast of color.

Now that the meteorological (and photographic) fall is over, this blogpost aims to give a small, totally incomplete, tour of Rotterdam in the fall of 2019.

Leuvehaven harbour and Wijnhaven island in Rotterdam on an autumn eveing, with historic barges, large trees and modern skyscrapers
Trees, towers and boats at Wijnhaven island

Is it a plane?

Rotterdam is a true plane tree city. Like our so-called capital has its elms, Roffa can be proud of its plane trees. Including, of course the Lijnbaanplataan, almost-tree-of-the-year. But also along the singels (canals) there are beautiful old specimens such as this centarian on the green slope along Noordsingel.

Noordsingel canal in Rotterdam in autumn, with an old plane tree, geese sitting on a grassy slope and a wooden pedestrian bridge
Plane tree on Noordsingel


But no matter how beautiful they are: a city with only plane trees would be a bit boring. Fortunately there are many other species to be found in Rotterdam. Like the honey locusts (gleditsia triacanthos) with the striking red seed pods that are surrounding Erasmus in the park in front of Saint Lawrence church since a few years.

The bronze statue of Desiderius Erasmus in Rotterdam , The Netherlands, surrounded by honey locusts (gleditsia triacantos) with red seed pods and green and yellow leaves
Erasmus and the honey locusts

Sweet gum

I previously wrote an entire blog post about the liquidambar styraciflua, or the sweet gum tree, whose leaves can take on just about all colors of the rainbow except blue. Quite a few of them have been planted in Rotterdam in recent years. Every time I think I have enough pictures of this miracle tree I come across another one that makes me grab the camera again.

Branches and red leaves of a sweet gum tree (liquidambar styraciflua) in the Park in Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Star-shaped sweet gum leaves

Duck feet

Another tree that is mainly shining in autumn is the ginkgo biloba, even though it usually limits itself to just one color: bright yellow. This exotic tree, originally from Japan, has a rarely used Dutch name, which translates as the duck feet tree. Looking at the leaves it’s not hard to see why. The ginkgo is one of the very few tree species with its own Twitter account.

Ginkgo biloba tree with bright yellow leaves in a street in Blijdorp neighbourhood in Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Ginkgo in Blijdorp neighbourhood

China and India

On Leuvehoofd Park I came across the beauty shown below. Upon inquiry it turned out to be a koelreuteria paniculata, which in English has several names: goldenrain tree, pride of India, China tree, and varnish tree. This little park close to Erasmus Bridge was designed by Dutch garden architect Piet Oudolf, who is actually much better known for his work on the High Line in New York. I assume that he is also responsible for planting this varnish tree. Well done, Piet!

Varnish tree (koelreuteria paniculata) in autumn color, in the little park at Leuvehoofd near Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Chinese, Indian, whatever.


Less striking in terms of fall colors, but certainly a pleasant tree to spot is the Caucasian wingnut (pterocarya fraxinifolia). This one is located on an unsightly square on the Baan, behind the Health Service premises. That building was finished 1941; so most likely the tree is almost eighty years old.

Caucasian wingnut (pterocarya fraxinifolia) in autumn in a back street in Rotterdam, the Netherlands
The Health Service wingnut

Slow Fall

The fall of 2019 was a bit later than usual. Discoloration started late and until well into November many trees managed to hold on to their leaves. For a change, that has nothing to do with global warming. On the contrary: the cause was in the calm autumn weather without extremes: no very cold or very warm periods. Furthermore, enough water fell from the sky and, very importantly: that big autumn storm, which blows away all the leaves in one swoop, did not show up.

Nevertheless, the beauty was more or less over at the end of November. Although a path that is completely covered with linden leaves still yields a nice picture.

Path lined with lime trees and covered with fallen leaves on a beautiful day in autumn near Euromast in The Park in Rotterdam
Linden leaves near the Euromast

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