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Update on Benicia’s Freeway Trees

Valero provided 13 volunteers for Benicia Tree Foundation’s Tree Care Day on May 30 at our I-780 freeway plantings. Most of the volunteers were interns who are working at the Benicia refinery during the summer. A total of 32 trees are growing at Westbound Exit 3B (Military West) and Eastbound Exit 3A (Columbus Parkway).

The trees at Exit 3B were checked last month when six trees were weeded on Earth Day. Today, the remaining 10 trees were checked and all the trees were watered. In just one month, the grass seems to have grown another foot or more, making it hard to find the trees.  These trees were planted in October 2020 from five-gallon containers. The trees benefited a lot from the winter rains and appear sufficiently established to get through the summer without any additional water.

Another 16 trees were weeded and watered by volunteers at Exit 3A.  A total of 21 trees were planted at this offramp in April 2022 from one-gallon containers. Twelve died the following summer due to lack of water.  Trees planted in late spring will need regular water to get thru a dry summer.  Eight of these were replaced last fall using oak saplings sprouted by our partners at the California Native Plant Society who operate a nursery in Vallejo. These replacement trees grew well during the winter and the remaining trees from the original planting appear in good shape.

This month we will be installing shade cloth over the tree cages here to help protect the oak saplings from the summer sun. They will likely need water once a month during this summer.

The grass is still green at these exits. The water table seems to be high and both offramps have drainage channels that carry storm runoff from the freeway to Southampton Bay. Volunteers noticed a lizard and butterfly while tending the trees. The next challenge for these trees is from Caltrans when they are expected to mow the grass soon to suppress fire risk.  The trees are caged and marked with construction tape to help Caltrans see the growing trees.

Grass makes the trees difficult to find at Exit 3B
Volunteer waters tree at Exit 3C
Volunteers at Exit 3A
Volunteers with mulch


Volunteers snake through the tall grass.
Monarch by the offamp.