Los Angeles Is Losing Its Palm Trees

A Los Angeles street lined in palm trees.

A Los Angeles street lined in palm trees. Pixabay

Palm trees have been synonymous with Los Angeles for decades, appearing on everything from tourism ads to movie posters. 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, according to Los Angeles Times.

Instead, Los Angeles officials said they will replace the dead and dying palm trees with more drought-tolerant species that provide more shade in order to better handle the impacts of climate change.

“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.

In 1990, an estimated 75,000 palm trees lined Los Angeles’s streets. Officials said the number today is much smaller, though they don’t have an exact count. That loss is expected to continue over the next 50 years.

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.