Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fruity Street Trees? No Free Lunch!

Imagine that you're walking down the street and get an urge for a triple-scoop cone of Everybody Loves Rhubarb, Lumpy Gravy, and Cioppino Siciliano. The saliva floodgates burst. A nano-second later, in a voice oddly reminiscent of dear old mom, your macrobiotic-hi-fiber-omega-3 conscience interjects: "Have a piece of fruit. It's good for you."

As luck would have it, growing right there in the parkway is a Magical Fruit Cocktail Palm (Phoenix delmonteana). Clusters of familiarly labeled cans hang within reach. Why, there's even a hollow in the trunk containing a handy can opener!

"What an enlightened and generous place I live in," you think to yourself. "Which forward-thinking civic leaders had the foresight to use fruit trees as street trees? Not only are these trees doing their part cooling the urban heat-sink effect (which, in turn, reduces ambient temperatures and lessens our dependence on energy-hogging cooling systems), but I can also increase my fruit intake!"

[For the sake of brevity I will agree that canned fruit is inferior to real live stuff. But it was cuter and quicker to produce a graphic with cans of fruit cocktail than to futz around in Photoshop all day.]

Better yet, what if instead of magical palms, your community planted trees that actually bear life-giving, palate-tickling, colorful fruit? It stands to reason: If you're going to invest resources in planting, watering and pruning trees anyway, why not get something back?

Not Such A Peachy Idea

I called Ron Combs, City Arborist for the San Luis Obispo, inquiring if SLO had fruit trees in their public places. Aside from the pavement staining olives in Mission Plaza, Ron couldn't think of any fruit trees in his inventory. He did, however, use words like rotten, messy, slip and fall, gnats and rats. "The concept of edible street trees sounds great, but they come with problems," he said.

(I'm imagining the sidewalks during persimmon season.)

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scottweberpdx said...

I kind of wanted to plant apple trees in our parking strip last year, but I believe our city has an ordinance against planting fruit-bearing trees there. I kind of wish someone had told the person a few blocks away that before they planted the world's messiest fig tree there years ago :-) There's nothing quite as foul as walking over the fermenting remains of this summers fruits that lie all over the sidewalk and street.

Dirty Girl Gardening said...

MMM fermenting remains... :)

Julie Orr Landscape Design said...

I was doing a landscape design consultation yesterday and the clients had beautiful orange trees in the front yard. They also lived in deer territory, so it was a perfect fruit tree solution that not only looks great but is left untouched by the thirsty deer.