Trees in Rotterdam in the Autumn of ’21
Once again, this autumn, a Rotterdam plane tree finished second in the Tree of the Year election. After the Lijnbaan plane tree, two years ago, this time it was the Breytenbach plane tree on Westersingel canal that was defeated by a competitor from the southern provinces. Those Rotterdam plane trees are like the Dutch men’s football team of the tree competitions: always loosing the final.
Nevertheless it’s an impressive sight, this Breytenbach tree, on its own little peninsula in the canal. The tree owes its name to the South African poet Breyten Breytenbach, who declared it a “monument to free thoughts” in 1986.
Plane trees are beautiful in all seasons. But it must be said: in spring and autumn they are outshined by a number of other species with more exuberant colours. So, like previous years, let’s make a virtual tour along a number of those other Roffa beauties.
It took a long time untill the leaves started to change color this year. It was not very cold and there was hardly any wind; so the trees remained in a summer mood till well in October. And maybe also the wet summer had a beneficial influence. But these two gleditsias at the Ferry Harbour were early adaptors: they turned golden yellow while the neighbors pretended it was still August. That large boat in the background, by the way, is cruise ship Rotterdam on its maiden call. But that’s quite irrelevant in this tour.
The MacDonalds chestnut
If I had to nominate a tree as Tree of the Year, I would probably choose the chestnut on the corner of Steigergracht and Delftsevaart canals. Indeed, behind a certain American hamburger restaurant. This giant seems to grow both upwards and downwards: a good portion of the foliage hangs just above the water surface. I can imagine that such a colossus at that location will eventually cause some problems with the stability of the quay walls. But some extra reinforcement should fix that.
In a previous blog post I already devoted a paragraph with a photo to a Chinese varnish tree on Leuvehoofd. But there are about five of them in this little park, designed by Piet Oudolf. The official name is koelreuteria paniculata, and there are a whole series of English names: goldenrain tree, pride of India, China tree, varnish tree. In Dutch we don’t really know what to call it either. However it’s a beautiful species in autumn, because of the colors and those cute little seed pods.
There are also a few koelreuterias on the field near the “Gnome Village” on Stroveer. And a number of other species make it a colorful spot in the fall. It almost looks like an arboretum. The koelreuteria in the photo is already a bit further in the discoloration process, turning the leaves a sort of orange-brown.
By the way: the real big Arboretum with a capital A is of course located in the district of Kralingen. But I may dedicate a seperate blog post to that beautuiful garden.
And speaking of arboreta: one of the Lijnbaanhoven, located at the foot of the 3Develop Tower, also has a pretty collection of trees. There are among others a gleditsia thriacantos, a sweet gum tree, a chestnut and a very tall poplar. But this year I’m putting the hornbeam in the spotlight.
Another large beech tree is on Queen Emma square, next to Westzeedijk, diagonally opposite the Kunsthal. It is a red beech, one of the few trees that already has some sort of autumn color in the summer. But in the autumn, this species stands out even more.
One of my favorite groups of trees is in Zuiderpark. I had to check with the experts; I’m a photographer, not a dendrologist. It turns out to be narrow-leaved ash with the official name Fraxinus angustifolia Raywood. Those narrow leaves change color with a beautiful gradient, from green and yellow at the bottom to orange and red at the top.
There have been some prunuses on Lijnbaan for several years now. In the spring they produce the well-known pink blossoms, in the autumn the leaves turn bright red. That color goes well with the yellow of the gleditsias and the green of the hedges. Obviously someone has thought about the color scheme here.
One of the prettiest trees of late fall is the ginkgo. The leaves of this “duck’s foot tree” (as it’s sometimes called in Dutch) get a beautiful ocher yellow color. Although also for that we had to wait a long time this year.
There are a few Ginkgos on Hoogstraat and adjacent side streets, for some reason most of them in groups of three. They are still young, somewhat skinny trees; I therefore like to see the mention in this blog post mainly as an incentive prize. But who knows… Tree of the Year, say, 2121?
I conclude this tour through Rotterdam with the mother of all autumn trees. I once devoted a complete blog post to the liquidambar styraciflua, or the sweet gum tree. The popularity of this species is growing rapidly and rightly so, because with leaves in shades from green and yellow to orange, red and sometimes even purple, you can’t ignore it in the autumn. Since the refurbishment of Binnenrotte a few years ago, some of them can be found there on the market square. In combination with the Horn of Plenty, the artwork by Koenen and Roskam on the inside of the Market Hall, this results in a psychedelic color explosion.