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Remember the Beverly Hillbillies? That was a really lame sitcom; but it was somehow very popular at the time.

Each episode began with the stupid jingle that explains how and why the formerly impoverished but suddenly wealthy Clampetts left their home in Bugtussle and moved to Beverly . . . Hills that is.

As they drive their decrepit Oldsmobile down Bedford Drive just west of downtown, the palms flanking the roadway are prominently visible to the left and right. This strictly regimented collection of Canary Island date palms alternating with Mexican palms was not very big back then, in the early 1960s. By the 1980s, they were strikingly grand. Sadly, they are now deteriorating from old age. Many of the broad Canary Island date palms have succumbed to pink rot, so are now absent. Some of the Mexican fan palms are also lacking. It is saddening to see them now knowing how grand they were not too long ago. Although they are being replaced, they will never be as formal and uniform as they were as a monoculture (or biculture) that was planted all at the same time back in the late Victorian period. Even if it were possible to remove all of the trees and plant new ones at the same time, such conformity went out of style decades ago.

Arborists see these historic trees differently. They know that just one Canary Island date palm is likely infested with rats. Such a grand collection must be infested with a disturbingly large population of rats. Within a canopy of a Canary Island date palm rats, are safe from most predators, and get quite a bit to eat from the fruit produced by the female trees. (Most Canary Island date palms are female, with only a few taller and less billowy male trees for pollination.)

When a Canary Island date palm gets cut down from the base, it falls with a big SPLAT on the ground, followed by a blast of wind containing every Frisbee, baseball, tennis ball, kite and whatever got stuck in the tree over the previous few years. After a brief pause, but before the the baseballs stop rolling in the gutters, a herd of all surviving rats flees the scene. Most hide in the closest shrubbery they find. Some scurry up other nearby palms. It can really blow your image of the Canary Island date palm.

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20 thoughts on “RATS!

    1. It is worse when they don’t simply scurry away. Sometimes they jump out before the tree falls. I had one land with a thud on my hard hat, and then try to hide under my hard hat!

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      1. It’s in a pot at the moment – we always bury in pots first as if we put them in the ground, even under a plant, our neighbours’ dogs try to dig them up. The palm won’t go in the ground, certainly not for a long time.

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    1. Yes. They come down at night for water and other food, but they get most of what they need from the small date fruits and the big seeds within. Predatory birds can not get to them. They move their nests upward as the trees grow and leaves get pruned away below. Cats, opossums and raccoons will not go up there, even on short trees, because the foliage is so spiny down near the base.

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  1. Did the trees just outlive their normal life span — or was there an illness that went through the area? Could they have been saved if treated differently? I’d rather the rats stayed at the treetops than the other alterntives!

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    1. Canary Island date palms live only about a century. Mexican fan palms do not live much longer. It is normal for them. As palms, they can not regenerate new ‘branches’ or anything that would allow them to last longer. For their age, they have actually done quite well. Pink rot got around back in the 1980s, when they were prune with the ‘pineapple cut’, if you remember that ‘updo’ look at the time. The trees looked great, but the pruning was up into green fronds, which is how the disease got introduced. Those doing the work did not sterilize their saws. However, the trees would be declining now anyway, regardless of pink rot.

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    1. The palms thrive as well. The ones on Bedford Drive just happen to be more than a century old, past their life expectancy. Canary Island date palm self sows in mild climates, but not enough to become an invasive weed like some of the eucalypti can do. Mexican fan palm is a bit more invasive, and is currently being exterminated from Franklin Canyon Park above Beverly Hills, in order to maintain the style of the park. It is a historic site used for many movies and television shows, so should look like Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show.

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  2. I will never forget the sight of SIX rats scurrying along the cable line at the back of our yard that ran right past this large palm tree. I’m pretty sure it was a volunteer that the previous homeowners let grow. I am no fan of palms anyway, but now I had a great excuse or getting ot taken out!

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