Without any palm trees? It seems that many of the palm trees in Los Angeles are dying. The Canary Island Date Palms that were brought to the area a century or more ago are contracting a fungal disease. City planners are replacing them with native species as they succumb. That's right, the symbol of LA is not even native to the area at all.
Not all palms are infected, and there no danger of their vanishing altogether any time soon. But some parts of the city could look noticeably different in the years ahead. And that troubles some.
"I think the palm tree kind of fits with the whole Southern California vibe," says Jonathan Scott, who manages the fashionable downtown restaurant The Palm.
The palm tree may be better symbol of L.A. than many realize. Like the many young people who come to Los Angeles in search of Hollywood stardom, palm trees are not even from here; they were brought here 100 years ago or more from Latin America and other exotic locales.
The tropical trees that sway gently in the breeze and can grow as high as a 12-story building are everywhere — from postcards that fill Hollywood souvenir shops to the streets of wealthy oceanfront enclaves and the barrios east of downtown.
The palm tree has become so intertwined with the image of the city that its name is plastered all over liquor stores and cheap hotels. Neil Diamond once sang of Los Angeles as a place where "palm trees grow and rents are low."
It's been years, of course, since L.A. rents were low. And now the palm trees are starting to go.
The problem, says Steve Dunlap, a supervising tree surgeon with the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department, is that large numbers of the Canary Island Date Palm — trees with rough trunks and a topknot of fronds that look like green dreadlocks — are succumbing to a fungal disease.
I remember when Dutch Elm disease wiped out the trees that lined the city streets where I lived. Beautiful old trees that had made streets seem like green tunnels were gone in a flash, making the streets a barren wasteland for years while new trees grew. It sounds like the LA fungus is working a little more slowly. The palms aren't much good for shade, anyway.