About Those Palm Trees
So here’s something I learned during our recent trip to California: palm trees are not native to Los Angeles.
Which is odd, right? Because for many years now, when people think of the Los Angeles landscape, they think of palm trees. However, the woody plants native to the area tend to be scrubby shrubs and native oak species.
There is only one palm native to southern California: the California Fan Palm, or Washingtonia filifera. And even this plant did not grow in Los Angeles before Europeans started planting them there.
Palm trees started gaining mass popularity in LA around 1900. In the 1930s, tens of thousands were planted by the city as street trees.
However, most palm species require a great deal of water – they are trees of oases, not deserts. Many of the palm trees planted in the 1930s are now coming to the end of their natural life span. As they die, most will be replaced by other trees.
In fact, of the 150 species on the approved list of street trees for Los Angeles, only two are palms.
Of course, many people are likely to continue planting palm trees on their own property. Though I hope that such folks are careful not too plant too close to the house (see above).
So in a couple of decades, palm trees may be few and far between in LA. Once again, what we assume to be timeless could turn out to be very temporary indeed.