Avoid These 6 High-Litter Trees to Keep Your Yard Looking Great

We often receive calls from local citizens, particularly those in Bel Air, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, who are frustrated with the litter their trees strew across their otherwise immaculate landscapes. But this needn’t be the case – in fact, through careful tree selection, you can usually reduce the amount of leaves, fruit, sticks and seeds that fall upon your lawn.

Six High-Litter Offenders

All trees produce some amount of litter. Male flowers will eventually end up on the ground below, as will uneaten fruit and seeds. Leaves are another source of litter, and even evergreen species eventually drop their leaves to the ground below. But some trees are much bigger offenders than others.

The following six species are noteworthy for producing copious amounts of litter. And although they may be great trees for other locations, they aren’t great choices for homeowners seeking to keep a tidy landscape.

1. Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

Horse chestnut trees are widely celebrated for their attractive flowers, but they produce large quantities of nuts, which will fall off the tree throughout the summer. These nuts are not only large enough to cause people to trip or stumble, they are very toxic, which represents an additional safety hazard.

2. California Walnut (Juglans californica)

While walnut trees are generally beloved for their stately charm and delicious nuts, these nuts can create quite a litter problem underneath the tree. Making matters worse, the nuts are not only unsightly (and potential trip hazards), they can stain sidewalks and other surfaces.

3. Female Maidenhair Trees (Gingko biloba)

Maidenhair trees are very desirable landscaping species, whose fall foliage is out of this world. However, female maidenhair trees produce copious quantities of foul-smelling and messy fruit. Fortunately, most maidenhairs sold via retail outlets are cloned males, who produce no such fruit, but it is wise to verify the sex of any maidenhair trees you plan on installing.

4. Chilean Acacia Trees (Prosopischilensis)

Chilean acacias are well-suited for homes throughout California, including the Bel Air – Beverly Hills – Santa Monica corridor, as they are very drought-tolerant trees who remain relatively small. However, they produce a ton of dry fruit, which will soon cover every square inch of your property. Some varieties also shed sticks and very sharp thorns, making them a bad choice for homeowners who appreciate neat and tidy lawns.

5. Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Sweetgums are gorgeous trees for properties with adequate soil moisture, but they are infamous for the hard, spiky “gumballs” they pour all over the ground. Fortunately, there are fruit-less sweetgum varieties available in the marketplace, which solve most of the litter problem (they will still, of course, shed plenty of yellow, red and purple leaves each fall).

6. Mulberries (Morus spp.)

Both red and white mulberry trees produce substantial litter problems. Throughout the late spring and early summer, the trees produce plump, juicy mulberries, which feed several different wildlife species – particularly birds. However, birds aren’t able to eat all of the berries, and many will fall onto hardscapes below, where they’ll cause very dark stains.

If you are experiencing problems with the litter produced by your trees, contact your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants a call. Not only can we help you find some low-litter replacements, we may even be able to help you reduce the amount of litter your existing trees produce, through clever pruning and maintenance practices.


Pacific Palisades Tree Failure

In June 2006 in Pacific Palisades, a large carob tree fell over and crushed an unoccupied SUV. The street was closed while emergency crews cleared the street. A couple days later, a large limb off a eucalyptus tree fell a block from where the carob had failed. NazairoSauceda, from the Bureau of Street Services in the Public Works Department, commented on the tree failure, “We are investigating the tree that failed. They don’t fail like that typically.” The carob tree failed at the root ball and when it fell over, it totaled the SUV. Michael McRoskey, the owner of the SUV, said, “The scary part is if someone had been driving down that street around noon, they’d be dead.”

Tree failures are caused for a number of reasons, and each tree needs to be inspected individually for signs of over-weighted canopy, root damage due to construction, or overwatering and underwatering.

Before this incident, two other carob trees had failed at their roots and three other eucalyptus trees had shed large branches in Pacific Palisades. Residents have expressed concern over the potential hazards, but street tree superintendent Ron Lorenzen explained that there are about 700,000 street trees that are on a pruning schedule, but that the city only has funding to trim about a tenth of those trees each year. That means that the trees are on about a nine to ten year pruning schedule.

One local arborist commented that the city needs to have more funding up front for the care of the trees instead of having to pay legal expenses for damages once a tree fails.

Evergreen Arborists Consultants, Inc. has experience in examining thousands of trees. We evaluate a tree’s signs and symptoms ranging from decay, poor branch structure, poor pruning and maintenance practices, and roots.Please call us today for a consultation.

Malibu Trees



State Parks workers, working to replace rocks that had fallen off the revetments in response to wintertime erosion of the sea wall, removed a coral tree growing within the sea wall. The sea wall needed emergency repairs to preserve the historic Adamson House at the Malibu Lagoon State Beach. Suzanne Goode, senior staff scientist with State Parks, said the tree was not native to the area. “The tree was growing out of the sea wall, and it had to be removed in order for us to protect the sea wall. We are sorry that we had to remove the tree,” she said. Malibu resident Andy Lyon, an opponent of the Malibu Lagoon State Beach overhaul plan, said the tree was planted by surfers in 1971 and didn’t need to be removed. He expressed concern that this incident was indicative of how the lagoon overhaul – a plan to replace non-native vegetation with native vegetation – will occur. “If this is any indication of how the lagoon project will be handled, it’s not a good sign,” he said.


Tree Damage in Malibu



Approximately 1,800 Southern California Edison customers in Malibu were without power after a Sycamore tree along Ramirez Canyon Road fell onto a power line. Southern California Edison spokesman Gil Alexander said of the outage, “The tree fell on the power line, knocking power out.” The traffic lights at Pacific Coast Highway and Paradise Coast Road also went out. Lt. Josh Thai of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sherriff’s Station cautioned drivers to treat a traffic light power outage as a four-way stop sign. The tree caused the power outage at 4:46 pm and Southern California Edison started rerouting power once it detected the outage. By 6:54 pm, power had been restored to all but 40 customers.


Portland Fines For Removing Nuisance Trees

Portland, Oregon has strict measures in place that reduce the likelihood that property owners will replace nuisance trees with non-nuisance trees. The city code is set up to protect the city’s mature canopy, so healthy nuisance tree removal comes with a mitigation fee of $300 per inch of diameter measured at four and a half feet from the ground. For each newly planted tree, the penalty is reduced.

This policy is called into question when Norway maples are what property owners want to remove. Norway maples have shallow root systems that damage sidewalks and streets. They also spread quickly and outcompete other plants, are prone to disease, and are likely to drop large limbs.

One property owner who wanted six matching trees on his property – he had three that were Norway maples – was told he couldn’t put in three more Norway maples because they were listed as nuisance trees. When he said he would cut his existing three Norway maples down to replant with six non-nuisance trees, he was told that the mitigation fee would be about $10,050.