Black Walnut, Jenkins Alley

Black walnut, Jenkins Alley
Looking up into the black walnut at Jenkins Alley.

Now here’s a memorable tree living among us: the towering black walnut of Jenkins Alley, which shades the rear side of the almost equally towering Brown Memorial Church. It has BGE wires strung across it like guitar strings.

In its lifetime it’s sung many a song, like the ballad of Judge Tom Ward wrestling a burglar to the ground under its boughs.Its trunk measures a whopping 161 inches around, which may be a record here in Bolton Hill.

Juglans nigra is desirable both for its tasty nut and for its easily worked, deep brown wood. Its leaves are deciduous, alternate and “compound”—that is, each stem has many, rather than single, leaves, which alternate from left to right as you go down the stem rather than being arranged opposite each other in pairs. These leaves yellow and fall as the weather turns cold.The Eastern black walnut is monoecious, meaning that in spring it displays both male and female flowers, taking the form of inconspicuous green catkins. They arrive on separate spikes, typically the females first. However, the tree does not self-pollinate, relying instead on wind and the presence of other walnut trees for propagation.

Even for the mightiest among us, it takes a village.

The American Beech: That’s One Tall Tree!

By Sarah Lord

Stroll along the shaded sidewalk of West Lanvale Street and you’ll find that east of Park Avenue the tallest tree is a multi-branched American beech, nearing 50 ft. in height.

Slow-growing and happy in mixed forests where it rises to twice that height, Fagus grandifolia is native to eastern north America as far north as Canada and as far south as Florida.

American beech
American beech tree at 157 W. Lanvale St.

Its bark is silver-gray and distinctively smooth as skin. Its ovate leaves have a pointed tip, with side leaf veins off the midrib that are always parallel, each having its own point. The triangular nut, somewhat bitter to human tastes (and by the way, not used to make chewing gum), is a favorite of our city squirrels.

This particular Fagus grandifloria at 157 W Lanvale Street lost its main leader—the central “stalk” of the tree— more than fifty years ago, so now it resembles a sturdy hand reaching for the sky.

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And, as occurs commonly with the growth pattern of this species, its trunk seems to have eyes that gaze back at you.

Editors’ note: Sarah Lord and Lee Tawney will be chronicling the grand trees of Bolton Hill in future issues of the Bulletin. Please email suggestions to Sarah at

Help Trees Help Us

This tree says, “Help! Get me out of this tiny tree pit!”

by Sarah Lord, Baltimore City Forestry Board

Spring is the season to rededicate ourselves to one of Bolton Hill’s best features: our trees.

Our city is underpopulated by trees. Although the City is working hard to reverse these numbers, only 27% of our city is under the tree canopy, well below the desirable goal of 40%.

Our neighborhood is better off than most, but let’s not rest on our laurels (no pun intended).

Get involved with annual neighborhood tree events by joining neighbors for Tree Pruning on Saturday, March 18 and Tree Planting on Saturday, April 15.

If you’re a do-it-yourself type, you can adopt a tree pit to help our neighborhood trees thrive.

Studies have shown that tree pits should be 4′ x 8’ or larger, allowing trees to grow to maturity and cool not just pavement, but rooftops where possible. Many of our older tree pits are much smaller, resulting in cramped, less healthy trees. If your tree pit is too small, hire a contractor to make yours longer and wider if necessary. 

The ideal tree pit has no fencing around it, not even bricks, so that rainwater runoff can flow into the tree wells rather than bypassing them. The soil or mulch in these pits should be just below the pavement grade. When properly graded, you can watch with delight when rainwater flows into the pits to be soaked up by tree roots, nourishing the tree while diminishing storm water runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.

Or, plant a new shade tree, being sure to leave the trunk flare at its base above the soil line. It’s not a flagpole, so don’t plant it too deep and kill it. Never heap soil or mulch against the tree trunk, and remember to keep the soil level a tad lower than the surrounding sidewalk.

Most of all, help our street trees by watering all the tree pits your hose can reach once the hot dry days of summer are upon us. Do it about once a week, if we have not had a good rain. If conditions have been dry, watering in the fall can be critical to a tree’s survival over winter.

Need advice on how properly to plant, trim, or care for trees? Contact Bolton Hill tree expert Sarah Lord at or check out fun, free TreeKeepers classes.

Bolton Hill Looking Unkempt

Streetscape 2By Sarah Lord

Gracious, here ’tis: summer in earnest.

With our tree pits, sidewalks and curbs looking this unkempt, we know we’re not going to be Hollywood’s stand-in for Georgetown.

When you have a moment, step out with your trowels, clippers, even Roundup if you must. Our Bolton Hill streetscape needs spiffing up!

TIP: The best time to pull weeds is after a rian when the ground is moist. The roots pull out much easier than when the soil is dry and baked to a brick-like consistency.

And while you’re at it, any time you take timbers or bricks out from around our tree wells and lower the soil level to just below the sidewalk, you are helping the Bay. Without barriers, more stormwater can enter the tree pits, where thirsty roots can suck up more water. This reduces the amount of (not so clean) city runoff washing into the Bay.

Please support tree planting on our sidewalks citywide! And get rid of unsightly messes like these:

Let’s Take Care of Our Trees

Trimming TreesBolton Hill’s trees make the neighborhood a great place to live, but trees can’t take care of themselves. And it turns out, March is great tree-trimming weather.

Certified TreeKeepers David Nyweide and Sarah Lord are ready to lead a band of Bolton Hillers in branch trimming. Prune the tree in front of your house, or all the trees on your block.

Proper trimming promotes healthy growth for our street trees, and trimming branches selectively can ensure that street lights are not obscured.

To volunteer, contact Sarah Lord at fennofarm [at]