By Tim Clancy.
The “trees” in our story are Canary Island date palms, Phoenix canariensis.
Not long ago I received a call from an HOA resident who was distressed that the HOA board had decided to remove some trees. Well, they really aren’t trees, but plants that have arborescent characteristics. They are in fact palm “trees”. Palms are essentially giant grasses that are classed as monocotyledons. The “trees” in our story are Canary Island date palms, Phoenix canariensis.
The resident who called was distressed that the “trees” would be destroyed. It seems that another resident was complaining that the trees were obstructing his view. (My attitude in these situations is that the tree is the view!) The caller was looking for some information that would dissuade the board from cutting down the trees. Apparently, the board had decided that the trees were in danger of being attacked by the South American palm weevil which can be fatal. They of course did not know when the weevil would take up residence, but concluded that this was an inevitable occurrence and to remove the trees before they grew much larger and the removal cost was even greater. This is actually a logical conclusion most of the time. In this situation the trees are already so large that even 5 or 10 years of growth won’t alter the removal price significantly. A fact confirmed by the two other arborists consulted before I was contacted. It was also confirmed that while the weevil is marching northward in San Diego County (having come north from Tijuana), the likelihood of a weevil invasion was low for at least the foreseeable future.
Our caller was not convinced that the preceding information was enough to alter the board’s decision. I was referred by the 3rd arborist contacted. The HOA had worked with that arborist in the past and trusted his judgement. He typically refers me when the case involves palms and that’s how I got involved.
The trees in question are located in an HOA near an environmentally sensitive area known as the San Elijo Lagoon. This presented an opportunity for me to educate the resident about a very serious issue. I then informed our concerned resident that the Canary Island date palm is listed as an invasive species by the California Invasive Species Council. Their proximity to the lagoon presents a management problem to the keepers of the lagoon. Each year volunteers descend on the lagoon to remove unwanted plants (weeds) so as to maintain the natural order of things.
It just so happens that our caller knows the head lagoon keeper and so a call was made. The lagoon keeper confirmed the information. Now the tree removal would result in a benefit to nature and the HOA would be making a positive contribution to lagoon management. Of course, our caller was still unhappy about destroying such a beautiful plant. I made another suggestion and that was to contact my colleague who harvests palms to sell to the public. My associate will most likely harvest the palms he can get to and so it turns out that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.