Letters to the Editor: Cellphone tower ‘trees’ are an invasive species. A botanist suggests a name for them

Palm tree? Actually, it is a cell tower disguised as a palm on Imperial Highway in Los Angeles.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Thank you for the article on the phony palms and other cellphone tower “trees” that have sprouted up in Southern California. It was nice to finally learn some of the backstory.

My wife and I, both trained botanists with doctoral degrees from UC Berkeley, first noticed them around 1998 and were amazed that we had somehow overlooked them (although they may have been new at that time). We soon spotted them all over the region, from a primitive pseudo-gymnosperm at the intersection of the 10 and 405 freeways, to a robust pseudo-date palm along the wine route in Temecula. Most people to whom we mentioned the fake trees were unaware of them and probably thought we were slightly nuts.

It all comes down to plant blindness. I pointed one out to a colleague (not a botanist), and he couldn’t “see” it even though it was right in front of him. We even found one in Honolulu about 20 years ago; it was a pseudo-coconut palm perched on the top of one of those mountains that surround Honolulu, not a place any real coconut palm would grow.


Clearly, Dendrotelephonicus is extremely invasive and pops up everywhere. I even saw a large pseudo-araucaria in Botswana (by the way, pines do not grow in the Southern Hemisphere) about six years ago.

Stefan Kirchanski, Santa Monica


To the editor: In the L.A. universe that includes faux Matterhorns, “Swede-ish” Ikea furniture and “Tudor” half-timber architecture among Craftsman buildings, I enjoy pointing out this local brand of kitsch to my visiting friends and family.

I particularly like the way some antennae are attached to corners of some high-rise buildings, giving their blah facades an interesting detail that goes beyond the aesthetic of a cell device.

A cactus that hums? Why not augment the fake trees with a feature to play back recorded bird and animal calls?

Edward Duarte, Los Angeles



To the editor: In response to a proposed fake tree in Glassell Park in 2012, I drew up a wireless tower “angel” flying above the neighborhood and a few other ideas.

But a fake tree was approved, so we had to appeal. To our surprise, we ended up with a very nice clock tower with our community’s name on it, which has gone on to become a symbol of Glassell Park.

It shouldn’t be this hard to eliminate fake trees.

Andrew Montealegre, Los Angeles


To the editor: As the rainforests in Brazil disappear at alarming rates, “fake tree “ cellphone towers are proliferating. What are we thinking?

Elizabeth Eastman, Rancho Palos Verdes