The Beverly Hills Ficus

It’s one of the city’s original settlers, having taken up residence more than 80 years ago at the corner of Park Way and Beverly Drive in Beverly Gardens Park. Today, it’s one of the coolest, hugest public trees in Beverly Hills. The giant ficus--unlike anything you’re likely to grow on your balcony--towers in all directions, with massive arterial roots that grow down from its branches. Limber graffitists scale its heights to carve proclamations of their love (and suggestions of resultant acts of that love); sweating city workers nestle in the shade among its furniture-sized ground roots.

Beverly Hills quite literally grew up around this stately old Moreton Bay fig. (Yes, a fig is a ficus, although a ficus does not necessarily produce figs. Stop the presses.) Planted sometime between 1910 and 1914 by the long-defunct Rodeo Land and Water Company, the regal pioneer has since grown to a near-record height of 65 feet; its stately canopy’s circumference easily stretches to twice that. It ties with two other giant specimens, in Santa Barbara and Hawaii, as the largest ficus of their kind. (Our ficus’ neighbor, a magnificent Torrey pine once recognized as the world’s tallest in the National Registry of Big Trees--a book, incidentally, that actually exists--was toppled by high winds in April.)

The Ficus Macrophylla is pruned every six months so that the tree’s heavy branches won’t need propping up, thus eliminating the possibility of uncivic-minded individuals kicking out those supports. Which would be sweetly poetic justice to behold: a mighty branch weighing half a ton crashing down upon some nasty vandal--a triumph for tree-huggers everywhere.