Like most cities in Southern California, Santa Monica experiences a Mediterranean climate, characterized by wet, mild winters and hot, dry drought-like summers – even in good years. These dry summers can make life difficult for many of the trees growing on properties all over the city, and many die each year while trying to cope with these conditions.
One of the most effective ways of dealing with our region’s periodic droughts is through proper tree selection. Some species simply require less water – and are therefore better able to survive droughts – than others are. So, the next time you are considering installing new trees on your property, or replacing ones that are already there, consider the following six species.
Like most other species, these trees will all require supplemental watering for the first few years of their lives, but once mature, they rarely require supplemental watering – even during the long summer.
1. Black Acacia
Black acacias (Acacia melanoxylon) are medium-sized, evergreen trees that reach about 40 feet in height or so. They typically exhibit a rounded canopy and relatively dense foliage that provides pretty deep shade underneath. A hardy species, black acacias are able to cope with many of the indignities of urban life. For example, they usually tolerate confined growing spaces and polluted air.
2. California Black Walnut
The California black walnut (Juglans californica) is a native species that is both resistant to drought (once established) and very beneficial for our local wildlife. However, you’ll want to give California black walnuts plenty of space, as they release toxins into the soil that suppress the growth of other plants. It can be difficult to find this species commercially, but it is not impossible to do so – be sure to keep an eye out for rare-plant sales.
3. Chinese Pistache
Perhaps best known for its attractive growth habit (once mature) and incredible fall color, the Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis) is a medium-sized tree that reaches about 30 feet in height. The Chinese pistache is well-suited for Santa Monica’s Mediterranean climate, as it tolerates drought and intense heat quite well.
4. Deodar Cedar
Attractive, fast-growing evergreens, deodar cedars (Cedar deodara) are hardy enough for urban lots and they’ll even tolerate a fair bit of salt spray, if you live along the beach. Although these trees occasionally approach 100 feet in height, most remain in the 40- to 60-foot range. One important drawback to deodar cedars that bears consideration is the copious amounts of allergenic pollen they produce, so be sure to avoid them if you are allergic to cedar pollen.
5. Western Redbud
If you are looking for a small tree with glorious spring color, attractive foliage throughout the summer and winter interest provided in the form of hanging seed pods, it is hard to go wrong with a western redbud (Cercis occidentalis). Drought-tolerant and delightful, western redbuds adapt well to city lots and also provide plenty of value to the local wildlife.
6. Coast Live Oak
Native trees are almost always preferable to exotic specimens, and coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia) are a great choice for Santa Monica residents. Not only are coast live oaks well adapted to our region’s climate, they provide an abundance of food for our local squirrels, jays and other critters.
If you think your current trees are suffering from drought stress, or you’d just like to add a few new trees to your commercial or residential property, give your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants a call. We’d be happy to assess your trees or provide recommendations about the best trees for your lot.