A tree that had stood for generations has fallen after recent wet weather in California made the ground beneath it soggy.
The enormous fig tree was 144 years old and had been planted during the founding of the city of Los Angeles.
Having survived incredible changes during the intervening years, as development sprung up all around, it was the unseasonably rainy and stormy winter weather this year, on the west coast, that finally saw it felled.
A Moreton Bay fig older than 140 years fell during a Chinese Lantern Festival at El Pueblo de Los Angeles
The tree was one of four in the Plaza where the city of Los Angeles was founded. It’s believed recent wet weather is to blame
A Chinese lantern festival had been taking place at the Los Angeles Plaza of El Pueblo Historical Monument in downtown LA
At the time of the tree’s collapse on Saturday there was a party taking place close by with dozens of children present.
Line dancers were performing as part of a Chinese lantern festival, many of which were hung from the tree’s branches.
All of a sudden there was a crack which the crowd had presumed were Chinese firecrackers. The noise was actually the sound of the trunk which had splintered and cracked.
Moments later, the entire tree toppled over and its roots were laid bare to the sky.
‘We saw the lanterns attached to the tree start to go,’ said Teena Apeles to the Los Angeles Times. ‘We knew something was wrong.’
Apples said the tree appeared to fall in slow motion as it veered towards the ground.
The tree had stood for generations and with it the area around it change drastically as the city grew and grew
The four Moreton Bay figs around the historic Los Angeles Plaza (two appear pruned here) were the first of their kind in Southern California. This picture was taken around 1890
Los Angeles Plaza / El Pueblo de Los Ángeles Historical Monument, the very heart of Los Angeles, is shown in 1871. La Placita Church (Mission Nuestra Senora Reina de Los Angeles) is backed-up by what would become Fort Moore Hill
Photograph of a landmark plaque in Los Angeles Plaza
‘A massive tree fell at El Pueblo during the Chinese Lantern Festival before my daughter was set to perform. No one was hurt but I was disappointed there weren’t any protocols in place to address what could have been a tragedy had the weather been nice,’ Apples later tweeted.
‘You can see that the tree would’ve been surrounded by people had it not been raining. I hope that the surrounding trees have been checked since the tree fell on Saturday,’ she said.
The tree, which was one of four in the square, had been a continuous presence since 1875, the trees at El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the brick plaza where the city was founded.
Arborists has recently checked the health of the trees and their standing, but the analysis had been conducted during the long drought California had experienced in recent years.
When the rains suddenly came, the trees were faced with a different set of problems and the ground became increasingly saturated and soft – no longer able to support the enormous tree’s root system.
The downed tree ‘looked like a dinosaur,’ said Chris Espinosa to the LA Times. ‘It was so depressing.’
Some might say it was a sad end to a tree’s life that had been through so much, having seen everything from skyscrapers and even a freeway built beside it.
The trees had been planed by agriculturalist and City Councilman Elijah Hook Workman according to KCET.
A botanist with Los Angeles County, said the trees became unhealthy when the ground beneath their canopy was covered with concrete which prevented fallen leaves from decomposing and enriching the soil keeping it healthy
The Chinese Lantern festival was in full swing. Fortunately people were sitting away from the tree because of the rain and nobody was standing nearby, otherwise there could have been many injuries
The area where the tree fell was cordoned off to avoid anyone getting hurt. It has since been chopped up and hauled away
The tree had stood for more than a century and had become something of a landmark for locals who enjoyed its shade
Teena Apeles tweeted: “It was horrifying to be there when it happened. Our kids were to perform just minutes after it happened. Deeply disappointing that there was not an adequate city response after the incident to address the crowd there’
The Ficus macrophylla tree had been brought from Australia to Southern California in the 1870s to provide shade and landscaping.
Frank McDonough, a botanist with Los Angeles County said that he wasn’t too impressed with the health of the tree when he saw it in 2013.
‘In a well-maintained landscape — what I call “benign neglect,” where you give a tree some water, let the leaves fall and leave them where they lay — I imagine it could live 200 years or more,’ Hodel said.
He said that the problem was that the ground beneath it was concrete which prevented fallen leaves from decomposing and enriching the soil thereby strengthening and nourishing the tree.
A city arborist who inspected the surviving trees at the plaza say the rest of them remain in good shape.
After the tree fell, it was cut up with chainsaws and hauled away. Now there is little more than a stump to show where the tree once provided shelter to those who sat beneath it – shielding themselves from the California sunnshine and the rain.
The tree will doubtless live long in the memory and in photos like this for those who enjoyed its presence and lush foliage