Around Town: Protect the threatened persimmon trees

January 09, 2013|By Anita S. Brenner

Count me among those shocked that La Cañada, a member of the Tree City USA program, may consider killing 475 baby persimmon trees. (“Persimmons may never bear fruit,” Valley Sun, Jan. 3)

Who are these trees? The trees are only seven years old. They are innocent victims. These trees have never borne fruit. The trees were planted by La Cañadan William Johnson.

Johnson told the Valley Sun that he “planted his persimmons seven years ago after the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggested the fruit tree would flourish in the area.”


“I think it’s a really good thing for society to have, to be able to grow your own fruit,” Johnson said. “And persimmons are a good December gift fruit when they’re dried, so there will be a strong market for it, I believe.”

Persimmon trees, ebenaceae diospyros, bear fruit after the seventh or eighth year. Johnson’s trees are on the verge of adulthood, yet they risk public execution, without ever achieving their full potential.

How could this happen, here in La Cañada, with its long and rich ranch and farming history? A town where horses once cantered in the area that is now Memorial Park?

On Jan. 22, the city will enact a new General Plan. This will be followed by synchronization of zoning to match the new plan. With rezoning, William Johnson’s baby persimmon trees would be uprooted. Smashed. Chopped down.

Perish the thought!

Several legal defenses come to mind. The American Revolution of 1776 was based, in part, on a rejection of ex post facto laws. Ex post facto is Latin for “after the fact.” An ex post facto law creates a punishment or for acts that occurred before the enactment of the law.

The new Persimmon Tree Death Penalty seems like an ex post facto law. The trees were planted before the new General Plan, except for one problem. Trees aren’t people. Only people are people. If trees were people, then the city would be barred from retroactively killing them because the trees were planted before the new law was passed.

There’s another problem. Some of the trees are on Johnson’s 67 acres. Others are on the 11-acre Edison right-of-way. Edison allowed Johnson to plant the trees, but when the trees are outlawed, Johnson may lack standing to assert the rights of the trees on Edison land.

We have a two-tiered system. Some trees are citizens. Others are not.

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