Friday, November 7, 2008

In which I muse about palm trees

I do not work in the Inland Empire. (That's probably a subject for a blog post in and of itself.) Because I do not work in the IE, I have to commute, either via freeway or through Carbon Canyon.

This morning I was driving on the freeway, got sick of the traffic, and took surface streets the rest of the way to work. Taking a shortcut through Placentia, I happened to notice the row of palm trees lining the street. (I subsequently realized that the street upon which I was driving was named Palm Drive.)

As you can see, I didn't take the picture myself, but luckily Google took one for me.

Obviously we have our own palm trees, and we take those for granted too. I knew a homeowner in Ontario who planted a palm tree in his front yard and subsequently regretted it because of all of the required upkeep.

On the other hand, some relatives of mine came to southern California once and were looking for the palm trees that they assumed would be everywhere. They were disappointed to see that the palms were relatively few and far between.

But they're there if you look for them. Or, sometimes they're there, sometimes they're not.

First, a word about selling or giving away your palm tree.


There are many species of palms grown in the Inland Empire. Their value to a landscaper depends upon one primary factor: their ability to sell the palm tree and make a profit.

Yes, it's just like any part of the economy: if someone wants something, you can sell it. Who buys palm trees?

"I haul lots of trees to Vegas. Vegas always grows. A new casino wants huge trees" explains [Don] Walker [owner of Don Walker Trucking Inc. in Camarillo], who charges $1,000 for a typical haul from Camarillo to Las Vegas for six hours travel one way, plus unloading. Years of experience and a true love for trees insure that his tree loads arrive safely, without getting wind damaged or losing their leaves. "Palm trees are fragile. They'll break in the middle. You need to know where to brace them. Sometimes you only get one or two trees on a truck" says Walker, who carries $50,000 cargo insurance, just in case.

So some people are selling them, and some people (like the Ontario homeowner I knew) would just like to get rid of them:

[T]here's a new awareness of the hazards of palm trees, particularly fan palms. In various Inland Empire cities, there's talk now of phasing out the palm trees due to the fire hazard.

The writer above, Alma Jill Dizon, then asks:

What will southern California be like without palm trees?

But Alma points something out:

[C]onsidering that most of these palms are not native to the area and were only planted in the last century, we might not be saying good-bye to a truly California landscape.

Yes, folks, the image that we have of palm-filled southern California is yet another fiction, just like the movies we produce.

Unless, of course, you live south of Palm Springs:

Centuries ago, ancestors of the Agua Caliente Cahuilla (pronounced Kaw-we-ah) Indians settled in the Palm Springs area and developed extensive and complex communities in Palm, Murray, Andreas, Tahquitz and Chino Canyons. Abundant water and hundreds of plants and animals found throughout the area ensured stable living conditions. Crops of melons, squash, beans and corn were grown, animals were hunted, and plants and seeds were gathered for food, medicines, basketweaving etc. Many traces of these communities exist in the canyons today, including rock art, house pits and foundations, irrigation ditches, dams, reservoirs, trails, and food processing areas....

Fifteen miles long, Palm Canyon is one of the great beauty spots in Western North America. Its indigenous flora and fauna, which the Cahuilla peoples so expertly used, and its abundant Washingtonia filifera (California Fan palm trees), are breathtaking contrasts to the stark, rocky gorges and barren desert lands beyond. A moderately graded, paved foot path winds down into the canyon for picnicking near the stream, meditating, exploring, hiking or horseback riding.

Yes, a place where you can just get away and enjoy stuff. Maybe.

While in Palm Canyon, visit the Trading Post for hiking maps, refreshments, Indian art and artifacts, books, jewelry, pottery, baskets, weavings and conversational cultural lore.

Just don't try to buy a palm tree to take back to Minnesota with you. Don't laugh:

I grow several palms here in Minneapolis! Chamaedorea cataractarum, Livistona chinensis, Raevena palm. All go outside when there is no danger of frost and get sunk to their rims in the garden beds. They like the dapled shade of the maple but the Raevena rivularis will take wuite a bit of sun with acclimation. before frost in the fall I take them back into the 3 season porch for about another month and then they go up to the 2nd story plant room. Benn doing this now for 3 years.

The whole idea of brining the tree indoors for winter is a little odd, but if you love your palm tree, that's what you gotta do.

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