Goodbye ficus, hello Chinese Pistache

One of the ficus trees that was cut down/Google Maps

City Street Services workers finished planting a trio of Chinese Pistache trees this morning  at the same corner where the city had  had cut down a pair of large ficus trees a few weeks earlier, drawing complaints from many residents and a promise of replacement trees by Councilman Eric Garcetti.  The skinny sapling planted this morning joins two other young trees with twig-like trunks that were planted this weekend at the busy corner of Echo Park Avenue and Sunset Boulevard.  The new saplings don’t compare in size to the approximately 40-foot high ficus trees, which had shaded the corner bus stop. But the Street Services workers said the Chinese Pistache could eventually grow as tall as the ficus, where were removed to repair a buckled sidewalk. “They’re good for shade,” said one of the workers.

The Chinese Pistache, according the Arbor Day Foundation website, is often considered an “ugly duckling”  that over the years grows from “an unattractive and misshapen young tree” into a “magnificent specimen tree.” (Workers noted that this variety of Chinese Pistache does not drop nuts).

While the roots of the large ficus were blamed for cracking the sidewalk,  they did provide a shady spot for bus passengers.  This morning,  with the morning sun beating down on the corner, two passengers waiting for the next Dash bus stood in two small rectangles of shade created by the bus shelter and a sidewalk sign.

“I was very sad when they cut them down,” said Rosa, a Dash bus rider, of the ficus trees. “They were much needed.”


  1. How do I get the city to remove the massive ficus that is in front of my home that is tearing up the street and sidewalk?

  2. According to gardenweb, the Chinese Pistache “tree is listed one of the exotic pest plants of greatest ecological concern in California.”
    It’s sad the city hasn’t learned the best trees and plants to grow are California natives. Native plants attract native wildlife like birds and butterflies and have evolved to live healthy in our climate. So many native plants have been destroyed if not made extinct.

    • Good point!
      Should be obvious to choose a native species.

      • Choosing native trees for street trees doesn’t always work out. Choosing only natives is a bad idea. One reason is that although plants do well in an environment similar to that in which they evolved, the environment of an urban street is rarely that. So you try to used natives that can tolerate such an adverse environment. There are some but not many and that leads to the next problem. When planning for street trees, the planners draw on history and recognize that not having enough diversity leads to an urban forest that can be devastated by pest and disease. Dutch Elm disease would be a good example of this.

    • The Cal-IPC, the absolute authority on California invasive plant species, has investigated Chinese Pistache and found that it is in fact not invasive and does not list it as an invasive species.

  3. Angeleno Heightster

    Ficus roots can be trimmed and the sidewalk repaired without cutting down or harming the tree. It would probably need to be done only every 30 years or so. Super stroller-friendly Pasadena has long avenues lined with huge ficus trees and flat sidewalks. It’s not that complicated (except for the City of LA that is).

    • Thats what I’ve been saying all along but, it seems we have a few simpletons who think everything man made is permanent and that the city should never have to fix its streets and sidewalks…Is that not what every one is taxed for?

      Im done with this, Eric does not have my vote and everyone else I talk to also will not vote for him…

      • Nothing is permanent. Everything changes. Some people like ficus trees. Some people hate them. I’m kind of amazed that opinons get so heated over this. Personally, I’m happy that a sidewalk was repaired and that new trees were planted. I’m glad my beloved Echo Park got some attention. I am sorry that we don’t have beautiful tree lined streets like Pasadena does, but we also don’t have their money. That’s why we don’t have the fancy grocery stores and the big mansions that Pasadena’s got. But I have seen tons of amazing changes to this place in my 20 years here (I know that I’m a relative short-timer compared to a lot of commenters). We’ve got great parks, great food and great people!

        • I agree. There is so much positive change going on in Echo Park (I’ve only been here 9 years, so sue me.)

          I’m not glad trees got cut down, but that chunk of the block was a mess. It was difficult to navigate with the sidewalk all broken up, and the sidewalk itself was so grimy. There is a bus shelter there. Yes, in the morning, the west side of the street gets direct (and often beating) sun. Maybe the bus shelter could be modified to provide more protection from the sun. Maybe parasols could be provided. I don’t know–but my point is–I’m sure there are solutions to the need for shade at that stop while you wait for the bus.

          Blech, conservative, patrician Pasadena. I wouldn’t live there if you paid me. If you prefer their “long tree-lined streets,” and you need them for your stroller–go for it. I prefer Echo Park’s gorgeous overgrown gardens and lawns recently bursting with flowers, the blocks with new businesses constantly sprouting, and the old standby businesses where neighbors from all walks of life see each other daily. Echo Park has in spades a quality Pasadena lacks–soul.

    • This is not true. Cutting the roots of ficus trees causes basal damage that will eventually lead to the demise of the tree.

  4. Ficus trees are so damn ugly. No grace, no beauty, no fluidity. They’re just huge hedges in the sky. They block out all light and breeze.
    Sycamores are much more majestic to name just one other variety

    • It would help a lot if they weren’t all lopped off like coatracks in the fall….. then they wouldn’t grow back like lollypops. Where’s an arborist when you need one?

  5. This is shameful AND stupid. If you ever stood there waiting for the bus (or rather… none come and then 3 come by) you’ d know these trees provided much needed shade on hot days – when the pavement radiates intense heat. Now, I’m no fan of ficus, but to replace them with a tree this size is an insult. I think the tree could have been trimmed and the roots trimmed and the sidewalk repaired. It will likely be 10 years before any shade will be had from these newly planted ‘saplings’. If the previous commenter is correct, the replacement tree is a repeat of the ficus – and it will be determined in 40 years that it, too, is a pest and will be cut down. Although in 40 years the entire planet will likely be a desert, since our atmosphere will be so trashed. Ahhhh, humans are so flawed, so short sighted. Better to wipe our species out – and start over. The earth doesn’t mind…

    • The ficus benjamina is native to south/southeast Asia and Australia. If it wasn’t for homo sapiens, it wouldn’t even be here for us to cut down. Maybe this helps?

    • Yeah the plight of the bus riders seams to be left behind in this discussion. Very surprising since anyone who resides in EP is sooo coool!

  6. your consience @ ep

    The way this is going we might be sunbathing on Echo and Sunset, as if it was Ferndell Park or something. Get your speedo’s at the Walgreens and just post up!

  7. I planted a Chinese Pistache on my old property. I loved that tree. Great shade in the summer. Never had a pest problem. Beautiful fall foliage in the winter. They are deciduous so there are leaves falling in after late fall, early winter. Give the trees time. You won’t miss the Ficus Tree.

  8. The Chinese Pistache is a beautiful tree once established (grows faster than a Ficus). It does look like an ugly duckling, especially if anything under a 24″ box size is planted, but if they they are in full sun, they will grow fast and if properly trimmed early will change the attitude of those who decry them as wholly inadequate as a shade tree.

    I did not see the damage caused by the Ficus’s but an earlier commenter was correct. If the sidewalk was taken up and the roots of the Ficus sheared, the odds of future disease and damage to the tree was great. Be patient; go on line to see examples of the Pistache.

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