Over the holidays, my family traveled to Europe to see my sister who works in Copenhagen. While we visited many places during our trip, Barcelona’s public landscaping was a major highlight. On our last day there, I split off from my family and ended up walking near the coast. I came upon a large park overflowing with joggers and bicyclists. The park’s landscaping felt a lot like Los Angeles, featuring decomposed granite pathways and even palm trees, but there was one key difference: orange trees.
Many Angelenos argue against the inclusion of orange trees in publicly landscaped areas based upon concerns about fallen fruit. Would it be a nuisance? Would it attract homeless people? Providing sustenance to the homeless is undoubtedly a good thing, yet most municipalities would rather it happen elsewhere. Somehow other nuisance trees make the cut. Los Angeles grows a bumper crop of liquid ambers that litter our sidewalks with spikey fruit nicknamed “ankle breakers” for the hazard they pose to pedestrians.
Orange trees benefit the city in numerous ways besides the utilitarian value of their fruit. Tourists flock to Seville to smell the citrus scent that permeates the city throughout March and April when its 14,000 bitter oranges are in bloom. While the bitter oranges aren’t particularly pleasant to eat directly off the tree, they make terrific marmalade.
In addition to their scent, orange trees can contribute to a landscape’s visual appeal. The Spanish tradition of incorporating citrus into the country’s public landscapes dates back several centuries. The Mezquita
, a mosque turned cathedral that UNESCO designated a World Heritage Site, grew oranges in its courtyard at least as far back as the 15th century.
While neighborhood and city councils voice their resistance to public fruit trees based on practical, historic or aesthetic grounds, I can't help but think about Spain. Should we be so concerned about a little mess that we forgo the numerous benefits of growing citrus? Having seen these beautiful public landscapes in Barcelona, Seville and Cordoba, I’m convined the answer is no.
Orange trees image from Flickr user 0niram. Creative Commons.
Mezquita courtyard image from Flickr user Peribanez. Creative Commons.