Don't Mess With Nature

We finally had the long desired rains. Lots of it. Good. We are at 97 % of normal rain levels in downtown Los Angeles after two years of drought conditions. The last year was the most severe.

The dreaded mud slides in the burn areas (from the fires last October) did not happen. Good.

But even in the city, far away from burn zones and hills prone to mud slides one can see examples of what happens when man messes with Nature.


This is a California Pepper tree (Schinus molle). Despite the name it is not a native tree, its natural habitat are the Peruvian Andes. It became very popular in California because it is a fast growing tree and drought resistant. Perfect for SoCal, one might think – hey, let’s plant them everywhere. Which is exactly what happened. Hence the name California Pepper tree.

However, dear Schinus molle is not quite as perfect as one might think. Even though the foliage stays lushly green even with very little to no water, spending lovely shade, the branches and the trunk react in a different way – they hollow out and become brittle. The root system of the tree is another weak point, it is rather shallow and does not work itself very deeply into the ground. Why should it? Coming from the Andes, you don’t dig deep for water through rocks and stuff, you spread out to get whatever water you can gain from the surface seeping down.

So there you have it: A rather large tree, the perfect picture of health with full foliage, but with brittle, hollow branches and trunk and a root system only about a foot deep. Along come heavy rains with quite strong winds and… well, see photo above.

In the end Nature always has the upper hand.

3 thoughts on “Don't Mess With Nature”

  1. Well, of course, there is always a reason a plant or animal is native to one region and not another. There have been some disastrous imports of both – kudzu for instance.

  2. Or the Melaleuca trees in Florida. They are fast-growing and suck up water – and are a serious threat to the Everglades.

  3. That’s exactly the insight we ne need others to get. This is great, Petra! Hopefullly, society will learn to respect nature soon.

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