LA’s Legendary Palm Trees Are Dying


The Legendary Palm trees of LA are succumbing to a beetle and fungus infestation that are killing the iconic symbols, making way for trees that give more shade and use less water.

The palms, which have been backdrop to countless films, posters and music videos, have become an effective way to announce: this is Los Angeles.

The South American palm weevil and a fungus called Fusarium are killing trees while others are dying of old age. Because the trees are so distinctive, this will change the overall look and feel of LA. In 1990, the palms numbered 75,000, and  is destined to plunge in coming decades.

No one knows how many will die, or how fast. For palm lovers, the even worse news is that they won’t be replaced.

Authorities will instead plant other species that give more shade and consume less water – important factors for an overheating city. By the middle of the century, LA is expected to be 3-5 degrees warmer and have triple the number of extreme heat days.

History may record this as the moment La La Land put utility ahead of adornment.

The city will continue to plant trees in certain designated areas, including Hollywood, and developers and homeowners will probably continue to plant palms.

Only one species of palm – Washingtonia Filifera, the California fan palm – is native to the state. All other species, from the exuberant, feather-topped Canary Island date palm to the more austere, svelte Mexican fan palm, are imports.

David Fink, policy director of Climate Resolve, said the city’s love affair with palms was not necessarily a mistake but that it was time to move on.

“The iconic association of palm trees with Los Angeles is a positive, but we’re now in a period where we have a better understanding of what’s needed. It makes sense that we replace the palms with trees that have wide expanses of shade and help cool things down.” Heat, he added, killed more people than other weather events combined.