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.
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 Park — 100 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
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
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 nickname “Mother 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.