Sunday, November 26, 2006

Excellent New York Times Article On LA Palm Trees - Other Than The Factual Errors... Of Course!

I'll begin with the errors, then add further commentary at the end of the quotes. To begin with, crape myrtles are not native trees of California; they are from Australia and Asia and are as much shrubs as they are trees.

Second, date palm speciment trees are not imported to this country from anywhere else, much less the Middle East. The date palms being bought by Las Vegas come from the date palm fruit orchards in the Coachella Valley down by Palm Springs.

Third, the writer has clearly confused date palms - which were very rarely planted in Los Angeles and almost never along the streets, with Canary palms which are one of the three species of (see below comments for correction that was made here) palms most often planted along Los Angeles streets. They are also not imported from the Middle East - or anywhere else - and they are native to the Canary Islands.

November 26, 2006
Los Angeles Journal
City Says Its Urban Jungle Has Little Room for Palms

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 25 — The palm tree, like so much here, rose to fame largely because of vanity and image control, then met its downfall when the money ran out.

The Los Angeles City Council, fed up with the cost of caring for the trees, with their errant fronds that plunge perilously each winter, and with the fact that they provide little shade, have declared them the enemy of the urban forest and wish that most would disappear.

The city plans to plant a million trees of other types over the next several years so that, as palms die off, most will be replaced with sycamores, crape myrtles and other trees indigenous to Southern California. (Exceptions will be the palms growing in places that tourists, if not residents, demand to see palmy, like Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards.)


Palms are hard to care for, so hard that the city has a line in its tree-trimming budget just for them. Last year, it was approximately $385,000, but proper care dictates an expense of about $630,000 per year, said Nazario Sauceda, the assistant director of the bureau of street services in the city’s Department of Public Works.

Many of the trees planted in the 1950s are getting toward the end of their lives, Mr. Lai said. Some are 80 to 100 feet high and 70 years old, and these are not self-cleaning palms,which means they need maintenance to remove old fronds.

Last year, the city removed nearly 8,000 cubic yards of dried palm fronds from the public right of way, Mr. Sauceda said.

Date palms, which make a bit less of a mess, have become prohibitively expensive to import, mostly from the Middle East, because Las Vegas has snapped them all up. And with only 18 percent of the city shaded (the national average is 28 percent), Los Angeles wants trees that shelter people from the sun.

Unfortunately, this is just one more important decision that was arrived at without any outreach to the citizens of Los Angeles or the neighborhood councils and it is just one more example of the city doing far more harm than good in trying to solve a perceived problem. It is also just one more step towards politically correct botanical conformity that ignores both the diversity of this city and its cultural and physical history.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand the passioned defense of Palms. Like the suburban lawn they add nothing to the urban ecology (shade, micoclimate) other than some vane nostalgia. The recent decision to plant more conducive trees not about some politically correct crusade but using public resoruces wisley to benefit people over images. I doubt there is any love lost to the east side/downtown residence who must suffer more the brunt of the urban heat waves...and more complaints will be predictably from spoilled west siders who don't want any change to impinge on how their self-erceptions are shaped by where they live.

Anonymous said...

If you are going to critique someone elses work; make sure you are correct, I am a landscape architect. Your reference to the "Canary Palm" as being a species of fan palm is incorrect. The Mexican Fan Palm is what is planted all over our city streets. The Canary Island Date Palm is the tree that is dying from a fungus and is not a species of Fan, it is rather a species of Phoenix. The fan is in the Washingtonia species

Anonymous said...

Actually, you are factually incorrect as well, Cowboy.

If you want to speak factually about plants, I would recommend using the Latin names which are far more accurate than common names.

"Date palm" can refer to several types of palms, including 'Phoenix canariensis' which is sometimes called Canary Island Palm as well as Canary Island Date Palm. And actually the palms you refer to are imports to this continent - they may have been grown locally, but naturally they do not occur in this region.

Not to mention that the most prolific palms in LA tend to be the tall fan palms: Washingtonia robusta and Washingtonia filifera (Mexican and California fan palms).

And let's not even try to talk about biodiversity...

Brady Westwater said...

You are are corect. While spell checking my post, I shortened that sentence which originally said there are two types of fan palms most commonly planted on the streets of LA - Mexican and California fan falms - and one species of feather palms - Canary Island Palms. When I shortened it to just say three species, I inadvertently left in the 'fan' description for all three species.

For those who do not know the difference, all palms are divided into two types depending upon their leaf structure. 'Fans' because their leaves are shaped like fans, and 'feathers' because they are shaped like feathers.

Brady Westwater said...

In answer to the first comment, you raise interesting points, but I disagree with them. First, I am a downtowner who would like to have more shade (and I have been active in making that happen, too), but palms trees do not in any way preclude shade trees from also being planted. The proposition that it is an either or situation is false. We can have both and many older neighborhoods do have both.

Palms add considerable beauty to the Los Angeles skyline in a way that no the tree can and they are also an important part of our cultural and bilogical history.

Lastly, one the great things about palms is that they can soar through and above a canopy of shade trees wihtout any harm.

Scott said...

As a downtown resident, I would like to see all trees along sidewalks removed. Please note that I feel this way only about downtown, or highly urbanized areas with tall (over 3 story) buildings.

One only has to walk down Spring Street at night to see how the very tall mature trees along there block out any light from the street lamps, leading to a murky, dim streetscape which is not at all inviting to walk or stroll on. The bus stop on Sixth just east of Spring is especially dim.

Let's also remember that huge trees mean a huge mess when leaves fall down on to the sidewalk. Another big problem at the Sixth and Spring bus stop.

We have some beautiful examples of early 20th century architecture. Why have them blocked from view by 50 foot tall trees? If you want some trees there for shade purposes, the trees should be regularly harvested when they reach 20 feet or so and replanted with new young trees.

50 foot tall trees that block street lights are not a benefit, but a detriment. Again, this should only apply in urban areas, not areas with single family residences.

PDQ said...

I think the city should plant more ficus trees. They destroy sewer lines and curbs and make navigating the sidewalks much more adventurous. Best of all they drop those leaves and berries all over everything.

Yeah.....more ficus trees!

desertlightningprose said...

Phoenix Caneriensis are the Canary Island Date Palms. They have about the thickest trunks and largest crown, while developing a thick, dark beard right below the crown of the tree. They have large pinnate fronds and can grow quite tall.