Current Event: Loss of the Iconic L.A. Palms

(California Historical Society, 1890)

As of late many tree species in Los Angeles have come under threat due to a large number of invasive species and diseases in addition to a rise in temperature. However, the most notable trees being lost are the iconic L.A. palms which used to line the cities streets and boardwalks in numbers upwards of 75,000. These trees that have come to symbolize not only the city of Los Angeles itself but also its culture, wealth, and glamour. The city has made and environmentally conscious decision not to replace all of the palms, but to replace them with native trees that will provide more shade and are tolerant of droughts. However they do plan to plant and maintain some of the palms in very high traffic and iconic areas to try to keep the aesthetic.

There are two main organisms responsible for the destruction of the palms, one is an invasive species and the other a fungus. The South American Palm Weevil and the Fusarium Fungus. The following represent the way they are destroying the palm tree population.

The South American Palm Weevil:

(LA Times, 2017)

“How it kills

  1. Palm weevil burrows into the leaf base and lays its eggs.
  2. Once hatched, the larvae move into the trunk of the tree.
  3. They begin to eat the tree’s core, causing it to rot.
  4. If the tree is not removed, its crown will eventually fall.”

Fusarium Fungus:

(LA Times, 2017)

“How it kills

  1. Fungus in the soil enters the palm tree through its roots.
  2. Colonized fungus clogs vessels the tree uses to transport nutrients.
  3. Lower leaves die first, followed by the middle and newest leaves.”

However these are not the only factors; other threats to these trees are the Polyphagous shot hole borer, sudden crown drop, pink rot, and red ring. I chose this article because I found it interesting that it not only focused on the destruction of the trees due to biological causes but also the social implications of this. This is a really great example of the symbolism that plants can carry and their importance in culture.