whacking away the fronds

Save the petticoats

Curator defends virgins

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the spring ritual of giving the palm trees a haircut, for no apparent reason.

In a recent article in The Desert Sun, James Cornett, curator of natural science at the Palm Springs Desert Museum, mounted a passionate defense of leaving palm trees in their virgin state. He pointed out that the desert fan palm, Washingtonia filifera, is the only species whose fronds remain attached to the tree. Left alone, the fronds hang down like a skirt, modestly shielding the trunk from view. (See my photos from Indian Canyons)

Cornett summarizes the arguments for and against trimming the fronds.

Preserve the petticoats
• provide nesting sites for birds
• create shade
• saves money
Remove the petticoats
• rats live in the skirts
• makes the palm look dead
• might fall and hurt someone
• fire hazard

As you might expect, Cornett finds the arguments in favor of removing the petticoats less than compelling, conceding only that the skirts do burn easily, a potential problem that can be mitigated by trimming the skirts.

What are the chances that anyone will listen to Mr Corbett? I reckon about the same as finding a snowcone in hell.