Palo Brea - HOA says I need to butcher it

atelierazAugust 13, 2007

Hi - I have a mature (6 yrs old) Palo Brea tree in the front yard. It has grown into a large tree (above the roof of our 1 story house) with a very short trunk. The short trunk has caused it to have many long branches and the canopy comes about 2 feet above the ground. We trim the tree to keep it out of the sidewalk, traffic sign and away from the house.

We have been told by our Homeowners Association manager that the tree looks like a "bush" and needs to be trimmed so that it has a high canopy. I disagree and believe that the tree grew in this shape naturally and to trim it back would mean to lose the entire shape of the tree. I've looked at pictures of Palo Brea on the web, and there are examples that look much like our tree with many large branches coming out from the base trunk.

I asked the HOA manager if she needed to pull out into the intersection to see oncoming traffic (we live on the corner of a cul-de-sac) and she said that she did not have to. She just doesn't "like" the way it looks.

Is the HOA manager's demand appropriate here? We have gotten compliments on the tree from our neighbors in the past. We have a meeting with the HOA board next month to discuss. Thanks for any suggestions!

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Well I think this is an absurd request on the part of your HOA manager. Im pretty anti-HOA in general so take my advice with a grain of salt... but unless there is something specifically in writing in your CCNRs or Design Guidelines that addresses the pruning or shaping of trees, I would say you have the upper hand in this discussion. Heres how I see it: if the Design Guidelines allow this tree to be planted without specifically detailing specs or pruning practices, they must accept any and all possible growth patterns of the tree, and unless it presents a public hazard (which you say you have taken care of) then you are in the clear.

You are absolutely correct to observe that you have a more natural growth pattern on your tree, this is how they all would grow if nurseries didnt 'train' them to be 'standards'.

I would ask your manager to point out in the guidelines where it details tree pruning. If there is nothing in the written rules, stand your ground and fight for your rights!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2007 at 6:37PM
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I agree. Keep it professional and polite. The management companies that the HOAÂs employ donÂt always have the most knowledgeable people. I have received letters about "weeds" in my front yard that are wildflowers starting to grow. It sometimes takes a call to a board member to ask for arbitration on the issue. That being said, be prepared for the backlash. Some of our HOA's seem to be stocked with petty people who take it personally when you defy their personal edicts.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2007 at 11:14AM
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Palo Brea trees are magnificent and I applaud you for allowing yours to retain its natural shape. There is a reason desert trees grow this way and it is for self-preservation. By having branches that hang low, severe winds are directed around the tree instead of up into the canopy. Have you noticed how many 'umbrella-shaped' trees blow over in monsoon storms? They become virtually airborn as wind collects under the branches. Another benefit of having a low canopy is that it provides shade. Shade, what a concept in the desert. Tender roots just under the surface of the soil are protected.

It sounds like your HOA just needs a little education on best tree care. There are a number of reliable sources available such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), and the University of Arizona. Heres a link to some photos of this tree at from Mountain States Wholesale Nursery in Glendale. They grow trees for the southwest and have a great database of plants. Another good source is Arid Zone Trees in the southeast valley. Visit and click on the Arid Zone Times Link. Select horticultural information and scroll down to Pruning Desert Trees 2002.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have more questions.

Certified Arborist

Here is a link that might be useful: Sonoran Palo Verde (Palo Brea)

    Bookmark   August 15, 2007 at 2:43PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

I certainly hope you can convince your HOA and keep your gorgeous tree as it is meant to be.

It is so sad that so many move to the desert and then try to force it to conform to beauty standards of other areas. Far too many plants are butchered by landscaping crews in the name of beauty when they are really being ruined.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 3:18PM
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