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Palm Trees in Southern California

Santa Monica

Rodeo Beverly Hills

Echo Park Lake

There is no other tree that is so quintessentially Los Angeles as the Palm Tree.  You can’t turn your head without seeing one. Palm Trees are everywhere- they line the sand at Will Roger State Beach in Santa Monica and the Palisades Park, festoon the entrance of Fox Studios in Century City, run down the boulevards of Rodeo Drive, line the streets of Hancock Park and Los Feliz, surround the lake in Echo Park, occupy “Avenue of the Palms” off Stadium Way in Elysian Park.

Palm Trees have come to symbolize wealth, sunny weather, and a tropical climate.

Wilshire Blvd 1926

Early settlers moving to Los Angeles were awed by these exotic looking trees that gave Los Angeles the mystic of an urban paradise.

The city planted Tens of Thousands of Palm Trees in the 1920s and 1930s.  They were lauded by the LA Times as being “Magical” and “Plumed Knights”. These are the same Palm Trees we enjoy today. Most palms trees live for 50-100 years so many of the street Palm Trees are reaching the end of their life cycle. As the street palms are dying the city has adopted a policy to replace them with more draught tolerant native trees such as Oaks and Sycamores. Palm Trees don’t provide a lot shade because they don’t have a big canopy.

I don’t expect our well loved Palm trees to ever disappear. There is an estimated 10 Million trees in the city.  8 Million of those trees are privately held, and the other 2 Million are on public land. Of the cities 2 Million trees about 700,000 of them are streetscape trees. The streetscape trees are a mix of 80-100 different species. Palm trees are one of the most popular species.

The climate in Los Angeles is changing and becoming dry arid, I expect a similar trend for Palm Trees as we are seeing for grass lawns- many palm trees will be replaced with less water intensive tree species but I still expect plenty of them to be around.

As you can probably tell, I have a particular soft spot for the Palm Tree. I love the way they look.

Some people criticize Palm Trees and say that they are genetically more like grass than a tree. When you compare Palm trees with other trees they do seem quite weird.

Palm trees have no tree rings like other trees do. If you look at a trunk cross section of a Palm, the trunk looks like a Loofah Sponge. It’s trunk is very flexible and resilient to wind. Palm trees can withstand hurricane force gales. Another difference is the Palm Tree’s doesn’t have Bark.  Have you ever noticed Palm trees don’t have any tree limbs? Instead of Leaves or Needles, Palm trees have fronds.

Palm Tree Fronds come in two types: Feather and Fan

Palm Tree root structures are very fibrous. Removing a Palm tree is the easy part, but removing a Palm Tree stump is a pain! It is not unusual to see Palm Tree stumps just left abandon in the ground because they are so difficult to remove.

Palm Tree stump on Santa Monica and Gardner

Maintenance:

Palm Tree fronds knocked down after winds blew in Hancock Park

Palm Tree Fronds die over time- if they are not removed than can become a safety hazard. The fronds are quite heavy, and when they fall from 30 or 40 feet they can cause some serious damage to cars or injury a pedestrian below.

These 40-50 year old Palms look like they have not been trimmed in 20+ years.

The city of Los Angeles is running its tree trimming service on a shoe string budget. They complete a trimming of all the cities street trees every 15 years. Richer cities like Beverly Hills and Santa Monica do their tree trimming much more frequently. If you as an owner are tired of waiting for the city to come do it, you can hire a tree trimming service on your own and pay for it.

In addition to Palm Fronds, a lot of species of Palm trees create fruit. When the fruit drops it can get gooey and messy.

These tree’s can handle temperatures down to about 30 degrees and weather classification between 9-11. It be surprising that aside from the popular California Fan Palm, all the other palm trees in Los Angeles are not indigenous.

Common Types of Palms

Mexican Fan Palm/California Fan Palm

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