by Christy Weir
Arbor Day is a nationally celebrated observance that encourages tree planting and care. California celebrates Arbor Day between March 7-14, this year on Saturday, March 12.
The city of Ventura has a fascinating tree history. One of the oldest trees in town is a designated historic landmark. The Moreton Bay Fig tree in downtown’s Plaza Park was planted in 1874 and, with a span of 150 feet, is one of the largest of its species. At 148 years of age, it is older than most of our buildings.
The two great Norfolk Island pines next to the Mission are estimated to be well over 100 years old. They reputedly were planted by a sailing captain in the hope that they would eventually provide a supply of ship masts.
In the 18th century, many species were introduced to Ventura, notably palms, eucalyptus and citrus. In 1898, thirteen Big Blue Gum Eucalyptus saplings were planted on a hilltop above Ventura. Over time, all have been lost to vandalism, fire, drought and disease. Two Trees, the much-loved symbol of our city, have not survived and replacements have been planted.
In 1922, several tall palm trees near the Mission were the inspiration for the name and logo of Las Palmas brand enchilada sauce, created by a talented Ventura cook named Rosa Ramirez. You’ll still see the Las Palmas label with distinctive Ventura palms on store shelves worldwide.
Thousands of acres of fertile land east of Seaward Avenue flourished with walnut, citrus and avocado orchards for most of the twentieth century, growing Ventura’s economy and enhancing the postcard-perfect landscape.
Ventura’s urban forest of over 30,000 trees is one of the most vital pieces of our city’s infrastructure, providing numerous benefits for our residents. Tree-lined streets retain large volumes of rainfall, reducing and cleansing runoff. They also increase property values, encourage shopping and business, reduce air pollution, calm traffic and lower noise levels. And trees reduce erosion and stabilize our hilly terrain. There are currently over 10,000 empty tree wells in Ventura, where street trees have been lost to drought, wind, fire and disease. Recently, the Ventura Tree Alliance non-profit organization was formed to help replace those street trees.
You can celebrate Arbor Day by planting a tree in your own yard, a living and lasting gift to our community.