L.A. Without Palm Trees?

Los Angeles’ iconic palm trees are the signature look of the city. There are 75,000 of them in Los Angeles, 3,000 in Beverly Hills, and 6,000 in Santa Monica. Most of them are Mexican fan palms, which in the wild grow from 40 to 60 feet, but in the city have reached 100 to 150 feet.

I’ve always loved the view of the lined palm trees adorning the city’s streets and swaying gently in the sky. They warm my heart. So I was devastated to learn that many of these iconic trees, which were planted in the 1930s, are nearing the end of their natural life spans. They are dying of old age and a fungal disease that has attacked similar plants around the world. As they die, city planners are replacing them with oaks, sycamores and other species native to Los Angeles, which are more adapted to the region’s semi-arid climate and require less water. They also provide more shade and cost less to care for.

Surprisingly, a lot of Angelenos are OK with the idea of replacing the palm trees with other trees! Reading about the issue I realized that not everyone here is a fan of the giant palms. They consider them hazardous and a nuisance because their big, spiky fronds fall off the trees in the Santa Ana winds that sweep the region through in winter, hitting cars and sometimes pedestrians.

I’m still new to LA (two years this month) and haven’t had any bad experiences with palm tress, so I can’t stand the thought of the city without them. I’m glad there are others who feels this way, like the Palm Society of Southern California, a research group that supports keeping the city lined with palms.

While it may take a while for that to happen (hopefully not in my life time), if you come to LA, enjoy these beautiful palms and the view they provide because they may not all be here the next time you visit.

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