The Origins of Burlingame’s Famous Trees

The palm tree that stands today at the Burlingame train station is the same one that was planted in 1897 by Julius E. Kruttschnitt, who was chief engineer, and later chairman, of the Southern Pacific Company.

Are the eucalyptus trees in Burlingame the same ones that koalas eat?
Yes. In Australia, cuddly koalas thrive on a diet consisting largely of leaves from the eucalyptus tree. In the south, one of their favorite varieties is the blue gum, the variety that is so common in Burlingame.

Weren’t there always trees in Burlingame?

At one point—despite its modern moniker “City of Trees”—the area that is now known as Burlingame was nearly treeless. In 1854, the Peninsula was called “a vast, windswept prairie,” suggesting a sparse vegetation. Nonetheless, there were native trees, including oaks, willows, alders, maples, and ash trees. The diet of the Ohlone Indians who settled the Peninsula consisted largely of acorns.

With few tall trees, the area was victim of the powerful winds that blew through. Wealthy landowners—who possessed vast estates carved from the ranchos established under Spanish rule of California—knew that planting trees was key to making the land more habitable. Burlingame has become known for the eucalyptus trees that were planted in the late 19th century and that still line El Camino Real, California Drive, Easton Drive, and other parts of the city. This species of tree was not the only one planted at the time, but in time it became the most prominent and ultimately, the signature tree of Burlingame.