Quillaja saponaria soapbark tree
A small evergreen tree with small glossy dark green leaves, some of them with a few teeth; easily mistaken for a young live oak at a quick glance. The flower is white, ½-inch across, hairy, and with five petals; fruit consists of 5 leathery follicles.
There are two stunted soapbark trees at the sides of the Center for Turbulence Research, 481 Panama Mall (across the street from the Old Union). A large specimen, nestled within the row of coast redwoods on the southeastern boundary of Tower House (860 Escondido Road) fell during the winter storms of 2023; it is sprouting from its stump. One used to stand on Serra Street, planted between the sidewalk and the road, about 30 yards north of the driveway to the Recycling Center. Examples can be seen in Palo Alto at 318 Ferne Avenue (left of driveway) and across the street at 323 Ferne (left of the hydrant).
About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. John Rawlings added notes on the flowers & fruit, and the Serra location. Tower House specimen added; all campus locations up to date (Aug 2023, SP).