Popularity of Palm Trees Is Blossoming in N. California

Associated Press

The palm tree is enjoying a renaissance in Northern California, thanks partly to planners and developers inspired by its elegant symbolism on “Miami Vice.”

Landscape architects and others say they are incorporating palms into their plans again after shunning them as too tacky and too glitzy during the 1960s and ‘70s.

“All of these years, people planted pine trees and sycamores and trees like that,” said Dennis Chambers, a partner in a real estate business in Sunnyvale.

‘Southern California Flair’


“Then all of a sudden someone said, ‘Look, we’ve got all these palm trees. Let’s use ‘em.’ One guy did it, then another guy did it, and now we’re all doing it. Everybody wants that Southern California flair.”

Rows of palms have been planted in downtown San Jose, and the city’s redevelopment agency said it wants to plant more. The new Ramada Inn in nearby Sunnyvale is adorned with palms.

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, where managers looked down on palms for years, has decided to set aside land for a palm tree garden. And Patterson, a small city in Stanislaus County, planted 400 new palm trees along its streets this year.

“They make a grand statement,” said Ralph Qualls, director of project management for the San Jose Redevelopment Agency. “It’s the image we want to project . . . nice and stately and elegant.”


Only One Is Native

Only one of the more than 2,800 species of palms, the California fan palm, is native to California. The International Palm Society is headquartered in Lawrence, Kan. But the image associated with the tree is as much California as it is Florida and the popular television series based there.

“It’s part of the kick that seems to be in right now, part of the ‘Miami Vice’ thing,” said Dale Motiska, who runs a nursery in Santa Rosa that sells palms exclusively.

Palm Society member Jim Mintken, a 55-year-old vintner and furniture salesman from Forestville in Sonoma County, said the trend is spreading.