One of the upsides to "discovering" a new place is that you get to name everything there. You even get to hand out the wrong name sometimes.
There's Aliso Circle in Laguna Beach, Aliso Street in Los Angeles, and Los Alisos Boulevard in Mission Viejo. Barbara Marinacci says, "'Aliso' I believe in Spanish means 'alder tree.'"
Marinacci wrote California's Spanish Place Names. There are native red alder trees in Southern California, but Marinacci says that isn't what the early settlers meant.
"When the Spanish came into this area, starting in 1769, they named things based on what they saw."
And what they saw were the huge trees that dominated Southern California's landscape, trees that shed their bark in sheets and often lean precariously to one side.
She says, "It really was the California sycamore they were talking about."
Apparently, there wasn't a sycamore in the Spanish-English dictionary. But for California's earliest settlers, an "aliso" by any other name smelled as sweet. And provided just as much shade.