Coral trees are part and parcel of Brentwood’s landscape, but lately it appears that many of them have been collapsing. Is this a trend or is it because of the recent spate of incredibly wet weather? Brentwood News spoke with Brentwood Community Council’s Veterans Park Conservancy Representative Teri Kahn to get the lowdown on Brentwood’s beloved Coral trees.
Is it just our imagination or are we going through another wave of coral trees falling?
I have lived in Brentwood since 1975 and don’t recall ever seeing so many trees fall over in such a short period of time. It is really worrisome.
Why is it happening?
These are South African trees that are supposed to be drought tolerant. However, we spoiled them. The older trees were planted in 1960 and were raised with a lot of water, so they became accustomed to lots of water and sunshine. Corals are fast growers under these conditions Proper pruning is essential just to keep them upright.
Like people, the life span of each individual tree is slightly different, but 60 years is a long time to live if you are a Coral tree. We are fast approaching that, so some trees are dying off simply because they are aging out. However, the years of heavy watering have caused root fungus and engorged limbs on all the larger trees. Couple that with shallow, surface roots and a bunch of rain and you get a wobbly bottom, a heavy top, and a disaster waiting to happen. It didn’t take much wind to blow two of the trees over.
The younger ones that we planted in November 2015 fell over for different reasons. I named the three trees in front of Starbucks Huey, Dewey and Louie (east to west). Huey and Dewey are being attacked at the base by gophers, and Louie has a girdling root. Valley Crest will be replace two of the trees and stake all of the others that we planted last year. However, the gopher problem grows.
Do the Coral trees on San Vicente Boulevard in Santa Monica face the same problems?
Yes, but [Santa Monica] has a larger budget and the gophers have not traveled that far west yet. The gopher problem began in earnest when the VA park was completed six years ago. The little guys had to pack up and leave so they took up residence on our medians, starting at Brigham. They creep west a little bit each year.
Santa Monica has also started to use mulch to improve the health the Corals. Mulch helps provide nutrients to the roots, keep potential pathogens in check, and preserves moisture.
In addition, they have replaced the antiquated irrigation system with bubblers under the older trees and water bags on the younger trees. Their irrigation has been retrofitted to be specific for the trees. Brentwood has not been able to get City approval for any irrigation changes.
Is there anything we can do here in Brentwood to save our trees?
Yes. We can place mulch around the base of every tree on the median. That’s 127 trees, but well worth it.
We have called in the Gopher Patrol to address the rodent problem, and once that is done we will be placing rabbit wire around Huey, Dewey and Louie to protect them from further infestations. This is experimental. We have our fingers crossed. We are also going to work with our local arborist Lisa Smith to take an inventory of each tree from 26th to Brigham. We really need to create a master plan for the avenue. Santa Monica is very pro-active in removing risky limbs and trees in their “remove and replace” policy. Perhaps we should follow suit.
Every property owner in Brentwood Park benefits financially from these trees whether they have thought about it or not. That is certainly true for those in the business district.
San Vicente will look naked without the Coral tree canopy. The Coral tree is Brentwood’s icon. It is in our best interest to support this arbor with donations, donations, donations