On a recent afternoon, Stephanie Carrie walked up to a cork oak tree on Potomac Avenue, a residential street in Mid-City, and put her hand up against the bark. She looked up at the tree in awe, taking in its multi-colored green leaves, and then continued admiring the trees that lined the neighborhood streets.
Carrie, a screenwriter and Southern California native who lives in Culver City, is behind the colorful Instagram account, Trees of LA.
When you visit the account, you’ll find a gallery of photos that shows some of the urban trees that give an element of beauty to L.A. streets and parks in addition to much-needed shade on hot days. And you’ll learn about Los Angeles tree trivia. (For example, the angel’s trumpet, a common Southern California tree with large fragrant bell-shaped blooms, is beautiful to look at and native to South America but it can be toxic if ingested.)
With a following of more than 13,000 tree lovers and enthusiasts, Trees of LA has become a place for Angelenos and other tree lovers to bond over their fondness of trees.
“I think that you don’t value a resource until you notice it,” Carrie said. “So growing appreciation for what’s around you seems like a great mission — or a silly Instagram.”
Despite the growing interest in the Trees of LA account, Carrie doesn’t consider herself a tree expert. Her Instagram account of photos of city trees, she said, “is just a hobby that got a little out of control,” but she’s serious about her tree appreciation, so much so that she’s on a mission to get what she likes to call “the underdog trees” of L.A. noticed.
When she started Trees of LA in 2016, she referenced botanist and Cal Poly biology professor Matt Ritter’s 2016 book “A Californian’s Guide to the Trees Among Us,” which helped her identify trees in the early days of her exploration. Carrie’s desire to learn more about trees also led her to take an eight-hour eucalyptus intensive at the Los Angeles County Arboretum.
These days she can identify trees from memory, and on that rare occasion she gets stumped, she will use Google Lens, which helps users identify objects through a simple snap of a photo.
Carrie’s hobby has turned into a passion project, helping to bring awareness of urban forestry to Angelenos. One of her goals is to cure locals of their “tree blindness,” the idea that people are so busy that they rarely notice the trees living in their surroundings — maybe the exception being jacarandas in bloom each spring. She’s also hoping to spread the love of the city’s trees beyond A-list trees including the jacaranda and the palm tree.
“I’m not in it for the likes,” Carrie said about her Instagram account, “but I am in it, for, you know, getting people to appreciate the trees that they might not notice.” She jokingly mentioned that she is brainstorming ways to get the tree more likes.
Six years ago, she started actively observing her L.A. neighborhood during afternoon walks with her son. Carrie had just given birth to him and was on maternity leave, so she made going for walks part of her daily routine.
Being mentally present during those walks led her to discover beautiful trees, including the often overlooked Brisbane box, as well as create an online community for tree lovers. (In case you haven’t noticed, the Brisbane box looks like a large lollipop that grows white flowers in the spring.)
While Carrie is making a push to get people to notice trees, L.A. is also pushing to get more trees planted on…