Iconic Los Angeles fig tree topples during local festival

Mar 13, 2019

A 140-year-old Moreton Bay fig tree that shaded a plaza at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument toppled suddenly during a Chinese lantern festival, reported Matthew Ormseth in the Los Angeles Times. The imposing tree was likely a victim of urbanization, according to UC Cooperative Extension horticulture advisor Don Hodel.

The commanding breed of tree with an enveloping canopy was brought to Southern California from Australia in the 1860 and 1870s to provide shade and ornamentation, Hodel said. 

"Their grandeur; their size - they have an imposing habit; their root structure is incredible; the spreading nature of the branches," Hodel said of Moreton Bay figs.

However, when he last saw the fig tree and three others at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument six years ago, "I wasn't too impressed by their health or their size, considering they're 140-something years old," Hodel said.

The fact that the tree was growing in a planter surrounded by concrete likely contributed to its early demise.

“In a well-maintained landscape — what I call ‘benign neglect,' where you give a tree some water, let the leaves fall and leave them where they lay — I imagine it could live 200 years or more,” Hodel said.

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist