Moreton Bay Fig Trees in Los Angeles

May 23, 2010 by Lisa Newton

When I first moved to Southern California from the East Coast, I quickly noticed a major difference between the two coasts–each area’s trees.

Of course, due to weather differences, that’s expected. And with plants, they’re particular to differing geographical areas.

As I’ve been covering Travelin’ Local’s Los Angeles stories, the Moreton Bay Fig tree has repeatedly made an indelible impression each time I’ve seen one here.

This is the Miramar Moreton Bay Fig, which so happens to be a designated historical landmark in Santa Monica. Located just outside the Fairmont Miramar Hotel–and according to the plaque at the base of the tree– this Moreton Bay Fig was planted by Senator John P. Jones in 1879. In the photo above, you can see just how tall and wide it is.

One of the truly unique features of this tree is its extensive root system.  Dating back to the late 1870’s, the story behind this Moreton Bay Fig Tree is that of a young Australian sailor. Legend has it when he lacked money to pay his bar tab, he proceeded to barter his bill with a Moreton Bay Fig tree sapling, instead of cash.

Having no interest in plants, the bartender then gave the sapling to the wife of Senator Jones, who requested that her gardener plant it in the yard of their estate.  That estate is now the Fairmont Miramar Hotel.

Although imported from Australia, the Moreton Bay Figs have found another home in California.  Even though they’re considered "rainforest" plants, they’ve adapted themselves to our Southern California climate like candy to a baby.

San Diego’s Natural History Museum is home to the tallest North American Moreton Bay Fig tree, which was originally planted in 1914.

The widest is the Santa Barbara Moreton Bay Fig, measuring more than 176 feet and planted in 1876.  Another place to find Moreton Bay Figs in the LA area is La Mesa Drive in Santa Monica.  They’re featured in Travelin’ Local’s E-book–The La Mesa Drive Walking Tour.

Because the Moreton Bay Fig trees root systems are so extensive, they tend to break up sidewalks, and reek havoc with gas lines and other plants. Therefore, they now tend to be located in large parks, where they have plenty of space to spread their wings and grow without disruption.

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6 Responses to “Moreton Bay Fig Trees in Los Angeles”

  1. Vanessa says:

    There’s also a beautiful Moreton Bay Fig Tree in the Palms neighborhood on National between Tilden and Military. Here’s some info about the Palms Fig Tree:

    http://bigorangelandmarks.blogspot.com/2007/04/no-19-moreton-bay-fig-tree.html
    Vanessa´s last blog ..Jacarandas My ComLuv Profile

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    Lisa Newton Reply:

    @Vanessa, Thanks for the additional information, Vanessa. These trees are amazing.

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  2. verdemama says:

    There are also two enormous Moreton Bay Figs at Rancho Los Alamitos in Long Beach.

    http://www.rancholosalamitos.com/aboutus/ranch_house.htm
    verdemama´s last blog ..Bless This Mess My ComLuv Profile

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  3. Mary Ellen Schrock says:

    If you drive (or walk) up Northern Vermont Avenue to the Greek Theatre there is an enclave of Moreton Bay Fig Trees. They are gorgeous and growing all throughout the hills of the old neighborhood that borders Griffith Park north of Los Feliz Boulevard. Enjoy =)

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  4. Noel Hall says:

    Thanks for your info on ficus macrophylla or Moreton Bay Fig trees origin East Coast Australia now in Los Angeles area, these trees are unusual in fig trees because the underside of the leaves have a rusty reddish brown color instead of the normal green and give these fig trees that rusty coloration when the leaves flutter in the wind.

    [Reply]

  5. Mike Balmages says:

    For more info on Moreton Bays Figs in Southern Cal look on http://www.facebook.com/greattrees

    [Reply]

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