Alliance for Community Trees News

Southern California’s Famous Palm Trees Are Dying

By Conni Kunzler | October 10, 2017

Source: Ally J. Levine, “L.A.’s palm trees are dying and it’s changing the city’s famous skyline,” Los Angeles Times; “Los Angeles Is Losing Its Palm Trees,” Yale Enviornment 360

Los Angeles, CA (September 22, 2017) – Palm trees have been synonymous with Los Angeles for decades. But now, LA’s iconic trees are dying from a fatal fungus and an invasive beetle, as well as simply from old age, and the city doesn’t have any plans to revive them.

The trees, so identified with the sun-splashed excitement of Los Angeles, are facing a decidedly darker fate. They are dying of fatal fungus and under threat of invasive insects in parks and along streets. And for the most part, the city has chosen to replace them not with new palms but with native trees that are more drought-tolerant and shadier, said Leon Borodinsky, a tree surgeon for the department of Recreation and Parks.

City officials say they don’t know how many palm trees have been lost. In 1990, a city tally put the number of palms on L.A.’s streets at 75,000. That number has declined, officials said, but they are not sure by how much.

“Over the next 50 years, you will see a great loss in palms. It’s already begun,” added Jared Farmer, the author of Trees in Paradise.

The decline in palm trees is part of a larger trend in L.A.’s treescape. In the next five years, the city will lose enough trees to disease and pests that it will take 30 to 50 years to replenish them, Borodinsky said.


“Palms are decorative and iconic, but Los Angeles is facing more and more heatwaves, so it’s important that we plant trees that provide adequate shade to protect people and cool the city down,” Elizabeth Skrzat, program director for City Plants, the city’s tree planting arm, told The Guardian.

The biggest threats to the trees today are the South American palm weevil — a beetle that burrows into the base of leaves and eats through the tree’s core — and the Fusarium fungus, which clogs vessels within the tree’s trunk that transport nutrients. Other threats include the Polyphagous shot hole borer, a tree beetle from East Asia, and red ring, caused by a worm that attacks the palm’s trunk.



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