Tall palm trees

For 49 years I have lived in or near Los Angeles City, which has countless streets with stands of palm trees 25 feet or more in height, with spindly trunks devoid of fronds, up to a topknot, as if they have been meticulously tended for many years. But are they? Can Los Angeles or any other city afford equipment that reaches higher and higher to trim these exceptionally tall palm trees? (Hey, such equipment would be invaluable in some rescue operations.)

Um, how are they different from regular palm trees? You are aware that palm trees just drop the older leaves as they grow, as they put out new leaves at the top? Palm trees need no tending to look the way you describe.

That’s what I would have said, Colibri, but evidently there are a number of SoCal City Councils who don’t get it. :smiley:





Yes the palm trees will drop its fronds, but it is usually at an inconvenience time and can do damage. We had a neighbor who didn’t trim their palm trees and whenever the wind would blow the neighborhood looked like a tornado had blown thru. The fronds are also fairly heavy with thorns on the edges thus creating a hazard when they fall. So with that, it is cheaper for the city to trim the palm trees then be liable for the damage costs as well as the possibility that someone could get seriously injured.

That makes sense then. Where I live (Panama) no one trims the palms along the streets and sometimes fronds dangle precariously for weeks. I’d hate to be under one when it fell.

Cities have found that it’s wiser to trim palm trees than to have nature do it. Nevertheless, during the recent winter storms here in Southern California, many streets have been littered with palm fronds.

Eucalyptus trees are another problem tree out here. They tend to drop off large sections without warning and I almost had my car squashed by one such eucalyptus.

Those aren’t coconut palms in Southern California,are they? It could be worse. I understand that coconuts falling out of trees on peoples heads in the Carribean cause more deaths than anything other than diseases…hurricanes,sharks,lightning included.

No, coconut palms are too cold sensitive to be grown in California. The palms you see in LA are mostly Washingtonia robusta, or Mexican Fan Palms. I am unable to find info on it in my books, but i believe the more mature Mexican fan palms are self shedding. But, the leaves arent very nice, with thorns along the leaf stems, stepping on one with bare feet can hurt (actually the two most popular palms in California, the Mexican Fan, and Canary palm (Phoenix canariensis), both have sharp spines along the leaf stem. In the Canary palm, the lower leaflets are modified into long spines. Mexican and California fan palms look bad if the tree isnt well cared for. I see some ugly ratty ones in my town. Also the thatch of dead leaves can harbor vermin, and are also fire hazards.

As for dropping fronds, i hear the fronds of Royal Palms (Roystonea) can weigh 40 lbs. each. These trees ARE self shedding, which makes me wonder if cities that use them to line streets have crews that watch the trees for dead leave so they dont fall and hurt someone.

All those palm fronds are excellent habitats for all sorts of rats. I’d much rather have em’ up there than down here.

Hence the derivation of the legendary drop-bears that inhabit the schlerophyl forests of Australia.

I found this old thread to revive because I have some questions about palms and other trees. Palms are common in southern California, but the other day I was struck that some can be very thin. Is the tallest species in so. Cal the Washingtonia filifera, or the Washingtonia robusta, or some other? How do you tell the difference between the Washingtonias? What is the tallest palm in Los Angeles?

I found an internet reference to the wax palm which it is said can reach 60-70 m. in height. Is there a wax palm in So. Cal?

Are palms the “thinnest” of large plants? Some grasses have very large heights relative to their diameter, but you would expect from the square-cube law. that small things are stronger.

It seems that the highest tree in the world is a 367 ft. (110 m.) Redwood. The data I find give diameters of 6-7 m. for Redwoods. That is a ratio of 15-1 or so. Palm trees of heights 15-20 m. with diameters of .5 m. seem common. This is a 40-1 ratio.

I also find references to *Eucalyptus regnans * of heights over 140 m. What diameter do these trees have?

Have any fossilized/petrified trees been found that are larger than modern trees?

Aren’t most of the palms growing in the desert areas of So Cal date palms?

Do you consider bamboo to be a “large” plant? The tallest ones can reach up to 40 m. Diameters can range up to 30 cm. Assuming the tallest plants are the ones with the thickest stems, that’s a ratio of about 133:1.

A good example, bamboo. Can a single stalk of that height support itself? I usually think of it growing in a big clump. Do the lower stalks support the highest ones? A Palm tree, being separated, gives more of an impression of thinness.

Bamboo is pretty strong; it’s used in Hong Kong as construction scaffolding for tall buildings. A large solitary stalk could probably support itself, but would probably blow over if the wind picked up.

A botanist could probably elaborate on this better, but I believe that many palm trees are spindly because they have to be flexible, in order to withstand tropical storms and hurricanes. (This requirement also dovetails with their minimal topiaries; palms offer a fraction of the wind resistance you find with, say, deciduous trees generally.) It’s the “bend, don’t break” flexibility normally associated with fiberglass fishing poles and Olympic gymnasts.

You should have seen the “Red Zone” areas in South Florida in the wake of Hurricane Andrew (a Category 4), back in '92. Countless trees were either snapped in two, or yanked out of the ground, roots and all. But mostly these doomed trees were of species introduced to the region: oaks, buschovias, slash pines, citrus and non-citrus fruit trees… It’s Darwinism in action, really.

Many are yes, however Palm Springs and the other desert cities with “Palm” in their names are generally named after Washingtonia filifera, the native California fan palm. Surprisingly true date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) isn’t used nearly as much as its cousin the Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis). They will grow just fine even up to the coast in California, although you won’t get dates from them unless they’re in the desert.

Washingtonia robusta are the thin trunked fan palms that dominate the Los Angeles skyline. They typically reach heights of 100 feet high. These originate from Mexico. Washingtonia filifera is much shorter (to 60 feet high), with a much bigger crown that is typically more open than W. robusta. Both will form “thatch” which are skirts of dead leaves, but W. filifera’s is much neater in look. W. robusta’s tends to look ratty.

The Wax palms, Ceroxylon are native to the Andes of South America. They as a group tend to be montane cloudforest palms and a lot are said to dislike hot weather, although the species from the lower slopes of the Andes are suited for So Cal. In Northern California Strybing arboretum has a couple Ceroxylon quindiuense which have leaves to 20 feet long and are beginning to trunk. Before the redwoods were discovered these were thought to be the tallest trees in the world (they can grow to 300 feet high). They are called wax palms due to the wax on the trunks. In Colombia there is a nature preserve with these giants.

Well no. Some tropical clumping bamboos have culms to 100 feet high and just 5 inches wide. And no, they don’t use other culms for support (how would the culms on the outside of the clump be supported by the others?). They simply have hard woody tissue. Many palms can have trunks in excess of 4 feet wide (Jubaea chilensis, and Phoenix canariensis)

Part of the thinness of palms is due to the fact that unlike a redwood they do not put on any secondary thickening. They do not continue to grow an ever larger trunk as the plant grows. Typically, once the crown is as wide as is genetically determined, the plant then begins putting on woody tissue and ascending. The palms with the thickest trunks also tend to have the most leaves (Jubaea, Phoenix). Palms have some incredibly hard wood. Phoenix dactylifera has trunks hard enough they can stop a truck crashing into them.

While for some it is true that they need to withstand hurricanes and strong winds, this is not true for the majority of palms. Many come from deserts, temperate island habitats, mediterranean areas, or rainforests where winds as strong as hurricanes aren’t common. Quite a few do very poorly in high winds, such as Archontophoenix cunninghamiana, which comes from sheltered rainforests. A high wind makes their leaves look absolutely ratty, and Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffianum) fronds will break. While on the other hand the Hurricane Palm (Dictyosperma album) is so wind resistant that hurricanes can blow and the tree fares well.
The thickness of a palm trunk is due to the amount of leaves the crown has, and the size of the leaves. Fewer leaves means a much thinner trunk. Leaf size also has something to do with it also. The Caryota can be massive (Caryota gigas is huge… 20 foot leaves, but only 6 or so) and their trunks are a few feet wide. Canary Island date palms are thick trunked because the crown holds up to twenty 10 foot long leaves. While Areca triandra has several dainty leaves and is thin trunked.

Also palms only begin to trunk after the crown has reached its maximum amount of leaves it holds at one time. Palms do not put on secondary growth like trees such as maples do. Once the crown reaches the amount of leaves it ever will have, it’s not going to get any wider since it’s not putting on more wood

Also wind resistance is high in many palms because they have many single fine roots that they constantly send out throughout their lives. They radiate outwards and act sort of like guy wires… they help to brace the palm. Palm trunks are also like a pipe filled with smaller pipes. This is what helps make them incredibly strong.