California Arts and Crafts: Botanical Tiles

California's Central Coast Trees

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. ~Hermann Hesse, Trees: Reflections and Poems


California is home to more than 7000 native species, of which one-fourth are endemic, not found elsewhere. The trees represented in this collection are California native species found between Point Mugu to the South and Monterey to the North, although several are found in other parts of the state, as well.

California Arts and Crafts Botanicals

These ceramic tiles of trees are based on the botanical watercolors done by Albert Robert Valentien between 1898 and 1918. Albert Robert Valentien painted 1094 California botanicals, primarily wildflowers, but also trees, ferns, and cacti, between 1908 and 1918 on commission from Ellen Browning Scripps. The botanicals have rarely been on exhibit but are on exhibit at the library of the San Diego Natural History Museum. The watercolors on display are rotated seasonally.

Central Coast Trees

Canyon Live Oak

Canyon Life Oak

Of the eight native oak trees that grow in California, the Canyon Live Oak is the most widely distributed. The leaves are green and flat and shiny on top, but can vary in shape even on the same tree. It is often found near creeks and in cool microclimates, such as canyons. It is a member of the white oak family.

The eight native oaks to California are: Valley Oak, Blue Oak, Canyon Live Oak, California Black Oak, Island Oak, Coast Live Oak, California Scrub Oak, Mesa Oak

California Black Oak

California Black Oak

In native folklore, oak trees power and wisdom, and acorns were carried to bring good luck.

The California Black Oak, also called the Kellog Oak, grows in mixed evergreen forests, oak woodlands, and coniferous forests. The California black oak occupies more total area in California than any other hardwood species. It is one of California's important trees for wildlife, providing food and cover for owls, woodpeckers, tree squirrels and black bears. The black oak is in the red oak family.

Valley Oak

California Valley Oak

The Valley Oak is endemic to California. The largest identified specimen is the Henley Oak in Covelo at 153 feet. It is also found on Santa Cruz and Catalina Islands, as well as inland.

The Valley Oak is symbiotic with mistletoe and lace lichen (California's state lichen!). The Valley oak is in the white oak family.

California Sycamore

California Sycamore

It's hard to miss this tree. When it fruits, the California Sycamore bears three to five fruits on a single stem. The leaves can be up to 10 inches wide, and the bark can be a combination of white, gray, pink and brown. It grows rapidly to 100 feet or more. Although this is not the usual case, a Sycamore on the campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto has a circumference of 35 feet.

Bush Manzanita

Inland Manzanita

The mature form of manzanita looks a lot like a tree. It turns to gray when the plant dies. It just takes a long time to get there -- It is very slow growing, with no discernible change in size over 20 years. All forms of manzanita are protected in California but you can harvest fallen twigs and pieces of the smooth twisted hardwood, which a deep mahogany red and can even do loops.

California native Americans harvested the slightly sour berries and ground them into meal. Shallow and Deep basin metate bowls can be found carved into coastal and inland cliffs throughout California, in areas wooded with oak and manzanita. Manzanitas grow best in poor or rocky soil.

Coast Manzanita

Coast Manzanita

Coast Manzanita, or Mission Manzanita, is a dominant shrub in coastal California. It has dark green leaves on the top and densely hairy on the bottom that makes them look gray. The bark is pinkish and flowers are smooth and urn-shaped, blooming between October and March. The leaves of the Coast Manzanita roll under; those of the chaparral variety do not.

Like the bush or chaparral manzanita, the Coast Manzanita is slow growing but can grow to a tree-like 20 feet. They do well in well-drain rocky soil where their feet are cool and their leaves sunny, although some even grow in beach sand near Gaviota Pass. All manzanita are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies.

Monterey Cypress

Monterey Cypress

The native range of Monterey Cypress occurs naturally at only two places: Point Lobos and Cypress Point in the Del Monte forest in Monterey County. Both areas are protected. It grows on cliffs and its structure is scupted by ocean headwinds, and in areas bathed in summer seafog.

In New Zealand, where conditions are more favorable than in its native range, the Monterey Cypress has naturalized. It has also been established on the Cape of Good Hope where a stand commemorates South Africa's WWII fallen.

When grown in warmer conditions, the Monterey Cypress is prone to "cypress canker". Sadly, when the trees were exported to the Mediterranean in the 1920s and 1930s, they took the fungus with them and has killed many related cypresses in Tuscany and Provence. Cypresses have been infected on six of the seven continents.

Coast Redwood

Coast Redwood

The Coast Redwood is the tallest tree in the world. It is not the biggest tree in the world; that distinction goes to the Giant Sequoia. Hyperion, the world's tallest known tree, growing in a remote area of Redwood National Park in California, is a Coast Redwood more than 380 feet tall. Primarily found in Northern California, their range extends down as far as the Santa Lucia Mountains south of Big Sur. The Coast Redwood is a coastal fog belt tree, where the condensation of from the summer fog provides enough moisture in the dry season.

Chumash natives of the Channel Islands built tomols, plank canoes, from the redwood driftwood that drifted down the coast, which allowed them to fish, to hunt sea lions and other marine life, and to travel to the mainland. The tomol is the oldest example of an ocean-going watercraft in North America.

Monterey Pine

Monterey Pine

The Monterey Pine is native to the Pacific bluffs of California's central coast. It is an endangered species, rare in the wild. Although popular as a landscaping tree, there are only three native stands in California and two islands off Baja California.

Santa Rosa Island Torrey Pine

Santa Rosa Torrey Pine

The Torrey Pine is native to Santa Rosa Island off the coast of Santa Barbara. There is another native stand on the sandstone cliffs near La Jolla in San Diego County. The Torrey pine is considered one of the world's rarest pines -- the last members of a widespread Pleistocene forest.


Tile Specifications and Pricing

Title: California Central Coast Trees

Tile: Ceramic or Tumbled Marble Stone

Complete Set: 10 individual tiles

Size: 6 inch square tiles

*Also available in 4.25 inch tiles (ceramic) and 4 inch tiles (tumbled)


Ceramic Tiles

4.25 inch square tiles: $54

6 inch square tiles: $65

8 inch square tiles: $78

Tumbled Marble Stone Tiles

4 inch square tiles: $62

6 inch square tiles: $77

How to Order California Arts and Crafts Botanicals Tile.


Other Botanical Tiles

California Wildflowers

California and Northwest Ferns

Victorian Botanicals: Flower Garden

Medieval Herbs and Vegetables

Early Medieval Medicinals

Charles Rennie Mackintosh Flowers

A.R. Valentien: The backstory

AR Valentien

AR Valentien was a successful ceramic artist before he turned his attention to flower painting. He worked for the famous Rockwood Pottery Company in Cincinnati for 24 hours before moving to San Diego with his wife, Anna Marie. A short trip to San Diego in 1903 to visit family, led to a permanent move five years later.

AR Valentien fish plaque for Rockwood Pottery, Cincinnati

During his initial eight-month visit, he painted 150 local species, including manzanita, lilac, and matilija poppy. These culminated in an exhibit at the State Normal School in San Diego, where he met Ellen Browning Scripps, the patron who would later commission plant portraits of California's native species. It was not long after the Valentiens resettled in San Diego in 1908 that Ellen Browning Scripps commissioned an artistic compendium of the flora of California.

For the next 10 years, Valentien traveled throughout California and into southern Oregon, sketching and collecting native plants for his plant portraits. Albert painted specimens as he found them. You will find in his paintings natural flaws such as broken twigs, broken leaves, missing petals or holes due to insect damage.


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