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September 30, 2017 10:44 PM   Subscribe

L.A.’s palm trees are dying and it’s changing the city’s famous skyline

Los Angeles' legendary palm trees are dying – and few will be replaced
For all the advantages of other species, however, Lipkis said part of him would miss the palms. “Something that drives me crazy is people think of trees as decoration rather than life support. But I must admit there is something that they convey that goes along with the image,” he said in a phone interview.

“I’m parked in a canyon right now watching four palms sway in the breeze. They don’t belong here, but there’s something a little bit good for the soul in the look.”
A Brief History of Palm Trees in Southern California

What's next? Jacarandas Are The Future (previously)
posted by the man of twists and turns (24 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
On the one hand- I'll miss the palms. On the other nope - give me our natural trees. One the third hand echoing what I said in the Jacaranda thread - they're pretty when they bloom but don't make me deal with them myself.
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:23 PM on September 30 [2 favorites]


I remember lots of absurdly tall and spindly palm trees from the last time I visited. If they had been trees in my yard, I would have been inclined to remove them and start over anyhow.
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:50 AM on October 1 [1 favorite]


Stark contrast to my experience here in the midwest near Chicago... I keep finding trees popping up in my yard, and even in my gutters, that have to be removed.

If I want an oak or maple at any given place, and I have to do is wait, and not kill it when it shows up. ;-)
posted by MikeWarot at 5:50 AM on October 1 [2 favorites]


There seems to be a bigger problem with palm death - an infestation of palm weevils, Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, has reached Corfu, Greece, where I am from, after devastating the eastern Med, making its way towards iconic coastlines like the French Riviera, and worse, the date palms of Morocco and Tunisia, so important for local economies, leaving behind dismal stumps surrounded by heaps of gray fronds. A dispiriting sight altering the landscape, and there seems to be no real countermeasure. It's scary. From what I've read, Israel has systematically tried to contain this plague by cutting down and burning all afflicted trees, but a true quarantine is extremely difficult to enforce, because bugs. Perhaps a hardier, bug-resistant variety might restore palms to the Med sometime in the future, but for the next decades things are not looking good. It's an eye-opener as to how vulnerable a quintessential living thing, that you have always taken for granted, really is.
posted by helion at 5:52 AM on October 1 [9 favorites]


“I’m parked in a canyon right now watching four palms sway in the breeze. They don’t belong here, but there’s something a little bit good for the soul in the look.”

Humans simply liking things is a hugely destructive force.
posted by agregoli at 6:19 AM on October 1 [5 favorites]


All the trees will die, then so will you. (emphasis mine)
In 2013 another researcher with the US Forest Service named Geoff Donovan took advantage of the fact that another beetle, the emerald ash borer, killed 100 million trees across 15 states in the US. Using statistical models to rule out the impacts of a whole bunch of other potentially confounding factors—race, education, income—Donovan’s team was able to connect illness with places that had ash borer infestations and concomitant loss in tree cover (which you can see in satellite imagery).

His result: Counties with borers had 6.8 additional deaths per year per 100,000 adults from respiratory disease, and 16.7 deaths from cardiovascular disease. Over the arc of the paper, that means 100 million dead trees—roughly 3 percent of tree cover on average—killed 21,193 people. “The implicit thing I’m saying here is that if you either kept the trees or increased the amount, you’d get the opposite effect,” says Donovan, now on a sabbatical at Massey University’s Center for Public Health Research in New Zealand. “I don’t think it’s the worst assumption in the world.”
posted by carsonb at 6:49 AM on October 1 [13 favorites]


As someone who has done tree service work I can happily say "fuck palm trees." They're a pain in the ass to climb, they produce tons of shitty fruit, some palms have sawtooth blades, the canary island palms have spikes that will go through you hand, mexican fan palms have a skirt of dead leaves under the growing cap that is filled with bees and snakes and if it falls can easily trap an arborist between the tree and skirt causing them to suffocate. Lets also not forget coconut palms which people plant in areas where people walk and live despite the fact that they can drop fruit that will knock you dead.

Fuck Palms.
posted by Ferreous at 8:33 AM on October 1 [26 favorites]


I forgot to mention as one last fuck you, the fronds tend to gum up chippers and block the exit chute leading you to have a huge backed up wad of plant fiber that you need to clear if you want to continue.
posted by Ferreous at 8:36 AM on October 1 [3 favorites]


It's all there, every last dollar, under the big W.
*kicks bucket*
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:01 AM on October 1 [10 favorites]


Dates are a VITALfood in much of the Middle East. In fact a diet of camel milk and dates will keep a person in excellent health. Dates are also fed to camels. So if the date palms go it is utterly terrible!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:29 AM on October 1 [4 favorites]


I live in Phoenix, and yeah, fuck the palm trees. Replace them with trees that actually make shade. Palm trees are worthless and they just make a mess dropping fronds everywhere. I might have a little sympathy for the one kind that's actually native, but I'm all for letting the transplants die.
posted by Weeping_angel at 9:47 AM on October 1


My mother has been uttering dire imprecations in the direction of their palm tree for some time, as it has been dropping gallons of seeds (that's not a figurative statement) all over the yard that rapidly produce cute (er, "cute") little baby palm trees if not removed immediately. She also didn't appreciate being smacked by a falling frond the other day...
posted by thomas j wise at 10:40 AM on October 1 [1 favorite]


Shadeless, poor Co2 converting, rat-infested, frond-shedding and non-indigenous. This Angelino won't miss them. Shady trees, please.
posted by ducky l'orange at 1:26 PM on October 1 [3 favorites]


It seems people love trees... from a distance. The palms make for a nice sight, as long as you don't have to deal with them. Similar those fucking jacaranda trees. Beautiful from a distance when they're blooming. A fucking curse if you have to live with them, or even walk under them. they even smell like a filthy piss laden subway when the sun gives way to a cool, humid evening/morning. Eucalyptus trees are pretty common here, smell beautiful, and grow tall and proud, even though they seem to drop large, car destroying branches or even fall over randomly all the time.

We had some kind of very tall, narrow evergreen that was threatening to fall over, began tearing up out walkway, and shed these odd seeds that clogged the gutters and looked a bit like moderately sized hummingbirds. That one went. Same with what I think was a mulberry, which was large and shady, and threatened our sewer pipe, and grew so fast, I could barely keep up with keeping it tamed. And then there was the willow that was gifted to us, supposedly from a trimming at Graceland. That sucker was simply a stick, stuck in the ground, and turned into a menace within 10 years, undermining the sidewalk while pissing everyone off downwind of the droppings. I love all those trees. When they're someone else's problem. They were too much a pain in the ass for me. All I'm keeping are my dwarf citrus trees, and the barren avocado that makes decent enough shade.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:19 PM on October 1


Eucalyptus trees are pretty common here, smell beautiful, and grow tall and proud, even though they seem to drop large, car destroying branches or even fall over randomly all the time.

Not to mention the fact that they're highly flammable and they grow in all the worst places for wildfires.
posted by elsietheeel at 4:04 PM on October 1 [3 favorites]


I'm going to speak in defense of the palm tree... outside of LA.

In Miami, we still have PILES UPON PILES of tree debris everywhere from Irma. The one type of tree that seemed to weather the storm really well? Palm Trees.

That doesn't mean that they should be in LA.

In general, we all really need to get behind the idea of native plants for various geographical areas. A tree that does well in a hurricane probably shouldn't be the tree of choice in a desert area that isn't threatened by hurricanes. It goes back to the comment up thread that "Humans simply liking things is a hugely destructive force."
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 4:27 PM on October 1 [4 favorites]


Eucalyptus are not native to California, in fact they're an invasive species.
posted by carsonb at 4:34 PM on October 1 [3 favorites]


lots of absurdly tall and spindly palm trees

Those are the native Mexican Fan or Washingtonia Palm (which remind me of Truffula Trees) but the first article's mostly concerned with the chunkier, imported date palms.
posted by Rash at 4:37 PM on October 1


Just as long as we all agree, Bougainvillea forever! Also, the fields of grass that blow in the wind in the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve!

oh god I wish I was back there
posted by Guy Smiley at 4:58 PM on October 1 [2 favorites]


Eucalyptus are not native to California, in fact they're an invasive species.

Here in India they planted them everywhere in the 60s and 70s, particularly along new highways because they're attractive and easy to grow. That was before they realised that they're exceptionally thirsty trees, and are super-adept at sucking up all the ground water. So now they're getting rid of them as quickly as they can and are actually considering banning them in some states.
posted by vanar sena at 3:26 AM on October 2 [2 favorites]


In Miami, we still have PILES UPON PILES of tree debris everywhere from Irma. The one type of tree that seemed to weather the storm really well? Palm Trees

Maybe those are different kinds of palms, but after heavy Santa Anas there are palm fronds all over the place.

highly flammable

Like giant match sticks.

One mitigating factor for the short palms: the custom in my old Main Street neighborhood is if you find keys or other small, lost objects in South Park you hang them on one the little ridges of the closest short tree. Admittedly, not a good enough reason to keep them, though.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:35 AM on October 2 [1 favorite]


palm : tree as LA : city

It's made of all the same components as a tree, but it fulfills none of the functions that real trees provide, is entirely artificial, and is shockingly ugly.
posted by eotvos at 9:40 AM on October 2


eotvos is right. I strongly urge people to stay far, far away.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:08 PM on October 2 [2 favorites]


I had a 60-80 foot one in my front yard growing up, planted in a bulging and tenuous pocket of unpaved lawn in a corner near the sidewalk. I was always terrified it was going to come down in high winds, because it just didn't have the space for a good root ball, but maybe the bulging concrete and asphalt around it helped anchor it.

In high winds and storms it would drop 8-10 foot long fronds with serrated edges that would litter the streets for days because people just didn't want to deal with them so much that ignoring them was apparently the thing to do.

A car bumped into it pretty good at one point and it rained half a dozen rats on the hood.

Say want you want about the overgrown, dusty, dirty ficus in the same streets. At least that provided shade and was so sturdy it never dropped anything larger than a small stick. And I could actually climb it, too, which is a very important metric for a kid.

I might feel different about a palm that produced coconuts or dates or useful fruit, but as an imported artifact of Southern California? Fuck 'em. I don't care for them.

Besides, they aren't even actually trees. They're just really big grass.
posted by loquacious at 12:33 PM on October 2


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