This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Why the palm trees along Palm Walk at ASU are dying


If you've ever been on the campus of ASU, or even just driven on University Drive past it, you may remember a bridge that connects the main campus with the area where the football stadium is. It's called Palm Walk. If you walk onto the campus you will see some very tall palm trees. And many of them are dying.

No, it's not a conspiracy, man. And it's not about global warming, or vandalism. These trees are simply finishing up their lifespan. Yes, they're that old. Some of them are nearly 100 years old.

In spite of the fact that I have an ASU shirt that says "1885" on it, when I started learning about my Alma mater, I was surprised at how old the campus is. And while none of the palm trees go back quite that far, many were planted right around 1920. In fact, if you're a "tree-hugger" like me, ASU's campus is one of the finest arboretums in Arizona. Trees have been planted there, and cared for, for a loooonnnggg time.

The palms there are Mexican Fan Palms (Washingtonia robusta), the same ones that you see along Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. In fact, they're the most common palm tree in Phoenix and Los Angeles. They grow quickly, and you can also see them growing in the cracks of sidewalks as they are planted naturally by birds who, uh, plant them while flying by (if you know what I mean). They are the least expensive palm tree at your local garden center, and many people consider them kind'a weeds (I know that I do).

So the old palm trees are dying. But don't despair! ASU will be replacing them. But not with the weedy palms, but instead with Date Palms (Phoenix dactylifera). Date palms are the kind of palms that grow in an oasis in the Middle East. Instead of being mostly "telephone poles", they have a large, graceful crown that actually produces shade. If you're not familiar with this type of palm tree, go stand under the Black Sphinx Palms on 44th Street just south of Camelback.

By the way, the old palm trees in Los Angeles are dying, too. Whether Beverly Hills will decide to replace them is undecided right now. But Tempe will be replacing the old palm trees, with Date Palms (actually they're dateless, so they don't make a mess), and they will be beautiful for another hundred years!

Image at the top of this post: Palm Walk in 1966, Arizona State University Campus, Tempe, Arizona


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