Where to Find Kate Sessions’ Legacy in San Diego

Kate Sessions Plaque

Kate Sessions Plaque | photo via SDtoday

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Kate Sessions. The name is connected to many of San Diego’s most beautiful spots — and with good reason. While she wasn’t born in San Diego, the horticulturalist who added (a lot) of trees to the city moved here in 1884 and found her home.

Kate Sessions statue in Balboa Park

Kate Sessions, forever in Balboa Park | Photo via SDtoday

If you’re looking to find Kate Sessions in San Diego, you might want to start where she started — Russ Public School, currently San Diego High School. When she moved to San Diego, she first taught mathematics and worked in administration. Ironically, the school was named after a lumberman who cut down trees.

🌱 Balboa Park

Like many of us, Kate loved San Diego’s climate, which allowed her to pursue her passion of botany. By 1892 she was contracted by the city to bring trees to City Park100 a year — for the next 10 years. Today, City Park is the famous Balboa Park, and Kate is naturally honored throughout. Most notably, her statue sits at the west entrance in Sefton Plaza.

When you walk from Hillcrest to Downtown, the streets are named after trees, honoring the 143 species of trees Kate brought to Southern California. Pro tip: The streets are alphabetical — Ash to Walnut Tree — in case you get lost.

🌱 Mission Hills

Mission Hills Nursery

It’s hard to imagine the number of plants that have been grown since 1910 | Photo via @missionhillsnursery

Kate’s legacy extends throughout San Diego — she even operated the floral shop at the famous Hotel del Coronado. She owned multiple nurseries, including Mission Hills Nursery, which she opened in 1910, and is still in operation today.

🌱 Pacific Beach

View from Kate Sessions Parkl

Kate Sessions Park overlooking Mission Bay and the San Diego skyline | Photo via SDtoday

Later in life, Kate moved to Pacific Beach where she opened another nursery. She remains a presence in PB thanks to the elementary school named in her honor. You can also visit Kate Sessions Park, a beautiful open space overlooking the city — one of the best places to catch a sunset.

🌱 Mountain View

Kate Sessions died in 1940 at age 82. She’s buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery alongside other pioneers who helped build San Diego.

Kate’s good work helping to grow San Diego earned her the nicknameMother of Balboa Park.” Without her, San Diego wouldn’t be the city we know today. She is responsible for bringing the jacaranda trees, the city’s official urban tree, to Southern California. Each spring their purple flowers bloom — reminding us of the beauty Kate Sessions gave to San Diego.