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Are Palm Trees Native to Los Angeles?

Palm Trees, Beverly Hills

Palm-Lined Street in Beverly Hills. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith via Library of Congress

Although the palm tree has come to be symbolic of Southern California, the only truly native palm is the California fan palm or Washington palm (Washingtonia filifera). All other varieties are originally imported. Southern California saw a huge surge in palm plantings during the 1920s and 1930s, many of which still line Los Angeles streets today.

Source: Los Angeles A to Z by Leonard & Dale Pitt.

The oldest known palm tree in Los Angeles is a Mexican Fan Palm believed to have been uprooted in the desert in the 1850s and replanted on San Pedro Steet in Los Angeles. In 1888, it was replanted again between Fifth and Sixth Streets on Central Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles. There it prominently stood in front of what was then Southern Pacific Railroad's new Arcade Station. When the station was closed in 1914, a public effort was made to save it, so, for the third time, it again was moved. It ended up at its current location, remaining there for more than a hundred years, at the Figueroa Boulevard entrance to Exposition Park.

Oldest palm tree at Figueroa Boulevard entrance to Exposition Park (view facing Figueroa). Los Angeles Almanac Photo.

Plaque at foot of oldest palm tree in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Almanac Photo.

Same palm tree, circa 1890, when planted in front of the former Southern Pacific Railroad Arcade Depot, located between Central and Alameda at Sixth Street (526 Central Avenue). Photo by Charles C. Pierce from the California Historical Society Collection at USC Library.