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Trip Around My Neighborhood

We are very excited to partner with Dolby Laboratories for a special Nature in your Neighborhood project for Dolby Cares Week. A time when Dolby brings art and science together to inspire the next generation of innovators, and address the most critical needs in their communities. Thank you for contribution to Sutro Stewards!

By: Samantha Lee

I’ve come across this type of tree many times while walking around my neighborhood. It’s really hard to miss, as I try my best to avoid tripping on those sharp, spiky, round pods covering the sidewalks and front lawns of homes. Commonly known as the Sweet Gum Tree, its lesser known scientific name is the Liquidambar styraciflua. This tree is native to the Eastern United States, and invasive to California. Though invasive, it made its way to California as a pioneer plant. It’s considered a favorite when landscaping homes as it’s an inexpensive and low-maintenance way to provide shade for the house. I believe this is why there are so many in my neighborhood – to keep houses cool during those hot summer months! Interestingly enough, the sap from the tree can be used as chewing gum - which is how it got its name.

While on my walk, I also came across what I thought was a California native and common wildflower. After some research, it turns out that this plant, commonly known as Black Mustard, scientifically known as Brassica Nigra, is actually an invasive species of weed. The plant is originally from North Africa and used in food and medicine. Along with Poppies, Black Mustard was found during the 2019 Super Bloom in Southern California. Researchers had claimed this could pose a threat to California during the summer months when there is a higher chance of wildfires, as the dried up plants could act as fuel and spread the fire.

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