For years I’ve been attempting to compile the definitive list of Alpharetta’s most notable trees. Below is my best effort.
There are undoubtedly trees I’ve missed, as there are many trees on private land; in particular on large corporate campuses which I can’t explore, nor would I encourage others to explore.
Rather, I picked trees that can be seen from the road or that are on park land that is owned by the city – and all it’s residents.
5. The Chinese Chestnuts of Charlotte Drive
There is a local resident who owns one of the few remaining agricultural parcels in Alpharetta. On this property and right next to the road as you drive down Charlotte Drive is a little grove of Castanea mollissima or Chinese chestnut. Castanea mollissima is not native to the U.S., but was brought here in an effort to replace the American chestnut after it’s sad demise. It is not nearly as tasty as the American chestnut and you will prick yourself until you bleed trying to get it open. But, it is still Castanea – a beautiful tree.
4. The Ginkgo of Canton Street
A local resident along beautiful, tree-lined Canton Street, just south of the old library has a beautiful Ginkgo biloba in her front yard. The Ginkgo is considered a living fossil, it is so ancient. But if you plant a Ginkgo in your yard you will soon learn that it grows unbearably slow, so it is significant that this tree on Canton Street actually has some age on it. There simply is no more beautiful sight in the fall than a Ginkgo in all it’s golden glory. But be warned, this yellow haze lasts only about 7-10 days. Stand in it, glory in it and take pictures of it when it happens!
3. The Biggest Sassafras in Alpharetta
Sassafras albidum is native to Georgia but it has been in decline in recent years for reasons that are not entirely understood. And yet, on the bank of a creek that runs through Webb Bridge Park is the largest and oldest Sassafras I’ve ever seen. This tree is particularly beautiful in autumn when it’s leaves turn a dark red. I traipsed through the poison ivy for this photograph.
2. The White Oaks
Tied for second place are the 2 most amazing white oaks you may ever see. White oak, Quercus alba, is native to Georgia and can be seen frequently around Alpharetta and Milton. But, if you want to see girth and age, then these 2 trees have it. They are: 1) the white oak at the hotel off of Haynes Bridge Road, adjacent to 400 and 2) the white oak at the corner of Old Milton Parkway and North Point Parkway. Both absolutely spectacular specimens!
1. The “That Deck Was Built on a Promise” Southern Red Oak
In first place for most spectacular, notable and significant tree in Alpharetta is the southern red oak at City Center. The name above refers to Mayor David Belle Isle speaking about the new parking garage at City Hall one evening and how it was built on a promise. But City Council (including David Belle Isle) also promised to save the southern red oak adjacent to that parking deck. Indeed, this is the tree that City Council, in 2012, turned a parking garage sideways in order to save, only to sell it (and permission to cut it down) to Mid-City Real Estate Partners. Such a shame and such a broken promise. If Mid-City does chop it down, it will be a bad omen. The right thing to do will be to leave it and build around it.