Those Goony Looking Things Are In Danger

OK, OK, OK, I admit it, I read a lot of Judith Krantz romance novels as a teenager. Most of which were set in L.A. And in one of them, the protangonist refers to palm trees as “those goony looking things”. They are, if you think about it, especially since they’re not even native to Los Angeles. The city had a massive surge of palm tree plantings in the 20s and 30s – especially right before the 1932 Olympics, according to Los Angeles A to Z. And the Times wrote a great article on the history of our imported foliage back in 2004.

But L.A Curbed reports this morning that now, it’s official: the palm trees will be phased out. MSNBC hinted at it a month ago, but CBS2 reports today that the city council will replace the palms with native species. I like this, because to me, the palm trees are part of the L.A. image that’s perceived by most of the world, of a city with no center and no history. Fighting against that image is what blew my mind the first year I lived here, when I found out how much of the city there was that I’d never heard of. Maybe bringing in more native foliage could be a bit of a symbol for reclaimin more of the city’s history, and presenting a new image to the rest of the world – beyond streets lined with mock-Spanish style houses and seventy-odd year old palm trees.

What do you all think of this? Are the palm trees a real symbol of Los Angeles? Is it a shame to lose them? Or would it be better if, over the next decade or two, palm trees disappeared to be replaced with more “real” plants for L.A.?

14 thoughts on “Those Goony Looking Things Are In Danger”

  1. Weeeellllll…… sorry, I like the palm trees. To me, they somehow symbolize the fact that Los Angeles is different and warm and full of light on a day like November 15th. They also represent some of the glamour that is so sorely missing in most cities…. and they are exotic. It would be a shame to lose them.

  2. I don’t find palm trees aesthetically pleasing at all, so this is good news to me. It is always good to cultivate native species in an environment. It just makes sense ecologically.

  3. I can live without the palm trees but I’d rather see the magnolia trees go first. Are they native? I hope not. I love the Jacaranda most of all.

  4. I think palm trees are tacky, but whether or not they’re native, they ARE part of our history. Its not like they showed up on a whim a couple years ago. People identify palm trees with Los Angeles as much as they do as that other non native, the Hollywood sign.

  5. I would love to see more native plants used in landscaping. Admittedly I am biased, since I am a botanist who specializes in native plants… It is too bad that people associate LA with plants from other areas, though. The really huge palms you see everywhere are from the Canary Islands, and the tall skinny ones are from Mexico. There is a palm native to the Palm Springs area which could be planted instead, if you just like palm trees. I think they are kinda ugly anyway.

    Magnolias and Jacarandas are not native. Magnolias always look like doo-doo in this climate, they are great in the Southeast but dont really belong here.

    Anyway, I’d rather see the excessive lawns go before the palms, they use a lot more water.

  6. oh yeah, sorry for the double post, but i forgot to mention… many of the Canary Island Palms are dying from an introduced disease, which is another reason people are trying to get rid of them, before they all die at once and are difficult to remove

  7. I think it would be a shame to get rid of such an iconic symbol of the city. Much of the tourism dollars brought into this city are because of the glamorous palm trees. Like it or not, the L.A. look is like a brand. Imagine if Nike just one day stopped putting the “swoosh” on their clothes or if they changed the colors and the insignia of Superman’s costume?

    I’m fromt the Midwest, and you don’t hear of anyone over there wanting to “get rid” of all the apple trees that aren’t native to that region.

    Can’t there be some kind of a compromise? Much of L.A. is a city full of transplants…so why are we trying to get some of one of our most recognizable transplants?

  8. Well, no one is suggesting that palm trees are made illegal, just that the city isnt using them as a major landscape tree. People can and will continue to plant lots of palm trees at their houses, commercial areas, etc. They aren’t going away, whether we like them or not.

    On a side note, the Mexican Fan Palm can actually ‘escape’ into natural areas and become a bit of a pest, although it is not nearly as much a problem as many other non-native species. This is not an issue for you unless you happen to live near a creek, which most people do not.

  9. Well they certainly make more sense here, than say, San Francisco. When they re-did the Embarcadero a few years ago they decided to landscape using full-grown Canary Island palms. Which seemed really out of place in the cold foggy city by the bay.

    I’m glad the city council decided to go with native trees (the Sycamore is an example of one). For anyone who, like myself, often walks Los Angeles, palm trees as iconic as they may be, make awful shade for sidewalks on our many hot sunny days. I flipped out when they chopped down perfectly heathy and shady (non-native) ficus trees at Hollywood and Vine and replaced them with skinny palm trees, all in the name of redevelopment.

  10. I loved your comment about “how much of the city… (you’d) never heard of” — that other 90% of LA that those of us lucky enough to actually live here get to experience. That is what makes LA so interesting to me – one never knows what is around the next corner… and if you saw it last week it’s probably totally different by now! The palm trees should be replaced when the time comes with… more palm trees. OK – a basic analogy – what is LA really all about? Tinseltown? The beaches? Freeways??? No – IMHO, it is all about what any city is all about – the PEOPLE that are here. Precious few people currently in LA can call themselves “native” in terms of going back generations to the Native Americans that were here “before”. Seeing that the people – the incredibly diverse people – who have come here and still come here make this city what it is, why not consider that the things those people brought with them are also important? OK, we can sure do without some of those things – like ugly stucco boxes, gridlock and gang wars – but hey – taking the palm trees out of LA (or encouraging their demise) would be like taking the Eiffel Tower out of Paris or the Tower out of London. Palms, especially those tall thin Royal Palms and Washingtonias that punctuate the skykine, are emblematic of what this city is today. They should stay!!!

  11. For those of us who grew up in colder climes, those palm trees WERE LA. On any TV show, they were the bright shining beacon that assured us that 6 feet of snow is not normal. And for me, actually seeing them told me I had indeed escaped the clutches of the midswest. Keep them, please!

  12. Being from South Florida, before I moved here it comforted me that there were palm trees here, too. I thought it meant the climates would be similar.


    You might as well replace them with cactus and stop the false advertising. ;)

  13. I’m an LA native and I LOVE palm trees. Even if the city will get rid of the dying, diseased trees, I do hope they will still keep the healthy ones. Palm trees are such a huge part of LA, and there are even plenty to be found in LA suburbs.

    I went to visit the East Coast two years back, and although it was a cool trip, I was actually weirded out by all the leafy trees there. LOL. I missed my palm trees…they always make me feel like I’m “home.”

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