Atlanta is known as "city in the forest," and it's truly one of the things I love about living here. About half of metro Atlanta is covered in trees (according to the people who know these things). Some you probably know, like magnolia, dogwood, pine, cherry, oak, maple and cedar. But you might not know the Eastern Redbud or Fringe Tree. Maybe you don't know that we have 5 types of magnolia: Southern, Umbrella, Bigleaf, Sweetbay, and DD Blanchard. Or 33 oaks native to Georgia.
This week, as we celebrated Earth Day, I took time to pay attention to the many trees along the Atlanta BeltLine, thanks to Trees Atlanta. They have worked hand-in-hand with the BeltLine since the beginning, planting trees and wildflowers, maintaining the greenery, and creating the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum.
When the concrete was barely dry on the Eastside Trail, there wasn't a lot of shade. I used to deliberately chart my evening walks southward, where I would catch shade from two bridges and a few trees. If I walked toward Piedmont Park in July, I would melt.
The plantings have come up fast. A few years later, the BeltLine is framed by lush trees and grasses. In the spring, beautiful Fringe trees with white (fringey) blossoms line a section next to Inman Park. They make my heart sing.
I tend to know my trees by color, rather than name. These pink trees don't last long, but they make the Historic Fourth Ward Skatepark gorgeous. My best guess is that these are Eastern Redbud. Please tell me if I'm wrong. I don't know what the magenta shrubs are.
There are also some historic trees on the BeltLine. Long before the railroad disappeared and was paved over, before Whole Foods and Ponce City Market, there were two magnolia trees that claimed their territory. When a baseball park was built on Ponce de Leon, where the Whole Foods shopping center is now, one of the trees remained rooted in center field. Depending on who you believe, Babe Ruth might have hit a home run off that tree. (If the Internet says it, it's true, right?)
The ones below might be cherry trees. I hope they will eventually bring much needed shade on the Eastside Trail between Ponce City Market and Piedmont Park.
During this Earth Week, I am grateful that I live by an arboretum, with all kinds of trees and flowers and grasses. I am grateful for the beauty that makes up this amazing planet, the only one I know.
An Atlanta native, Nicole Gustin is the founder & CEO of BiteLines, which offers walking food tours on the Atlanta BeltLine. She considers the BeltLine her backyard, and is excited to see how Atlanta is reinventing itself. The BiteLines blog features art, restaurants, happenings and weirdness on the Atlanta BeltLine. Share story ideas and pics at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow on Instagram @bitelinesatl.
Note: We have paused our tours during the pandemic, but plan to ramp up again in 2021.