Santa Monica stands in the top tier of tree-friendly cities in both the country and the world – no small feat for a city that is built on a historically tree-poor habitat.
This is only possible when local communities embrace their urban forest and appreciate the benefits provided by these leafy neighbors.
Typically, this necessitates things like allocating sufficient funding for tree care, adopting protective ordinances, implementing regular maintenance schedules and planning for removals and replacements. But while these types of day-to-day tasks and strategic initiatives are important, they often fall short of inspiring a love or admiration for trees.
Reduced to a series of costs and benefits, trees become just like any other asset or liability on the ledger. However, cities like Santa Monica understand that some individual trees become so interwoven into the local culture and ecosystem that they deserve special recognition and protection. These “Landmark Trees” are a special source of pride for Santa Monica’s residents, who currently apply this moniker to three trees within the city limits.
Moreton Bay Fig
The incredible Moreton Bay fig (Ficus macrocarpa) growing on the grounds of the Fairmont Hotel was first designated as a landmark tree in 1976. One of the largest specimens in the country, the incredibly picturesque tree was planted in the early 1880s. Interestingly, the tree appears to have been offered to a local bar of the time by an Australian sailor, who had no other way to cover his bar tab.
Like most other Moreton Bay figs, this tree has a heavily buttressed root system that gives the tree an enchanted look.
Also known as Himalayan cedars, deodar cedars (Cedrus deodara) are relatively massive conifers, native to south Asia. This landmark specimen, which was planted in its 5th street location around the beginning of the 20th Century, has never been pruned — branches still cling to the lower portions of the trunk. Standing about 60 feet high with a trunk over 4 ½ feet in diameter, the iconic evergreen is an impressive sight. The deodar cedar first gained landmark status in November of 2002.
The Hill Street yate tree (Eucalyptus cornuta) – often simply referred to as a eucalyptus tree – received landmark status in 2006. This particular tree is especially interesting, as it appears to have grown naturally – that is, without being deliberately planted by humans. Instead, the seeds were either dispersed by the wind or cached and forgotten by local wildlife.
The tree rises about 60 feet into the air and bears two trunks – a condition arborists refer to as co-dominant leaders. The smaller trunk is about 45 inches in diameter, while the larger trunk measures about 49 inches in diameter.
Former Landmark Tree: The 24th Street Blue Gum
While landmark trees are afforded greater protection than most trees, this protection is not permanent. Some landmark trees become hazardous with age, thereby necessitating their removal. Such was the case with the immense blue gum (Eucalyptus deanei) on 24th street, which was removed in September of 2012, in response the failure of several large limbs. Until it was removed, the tree soared 130 feet into the sky and boasted a trunk diameter of 17 feet, making it the largest blue gum tree in the country. The tree had appeared in numerous books, including “The Trees of Santa Monica.”