Disneyland Grew Around This 118-Year-Old Palm Tree

When it was planted in 1896, this Canary Island date palm counted the orange trees of an Anaheim citrus grove as its neighbors. Today it rubs shoulders with the bamboo stalks of Adventureland.

The tree was already 58 years old when Walt Disney bought the ranch it ornamented for his new development. Bulldozers soon reconfigured the landscape, toppling orange trees and carving artificial rivers into the ground. But Disney personally intervened to spare this one palm tree, moving it a short distance and incorporating it within the tropical flora of Adventureland.

And there is grows today. Though virtually every facet of the park has been renovated and reimagined, the palm still stands in the middle of Disneyland's jungle realm, its fronds shading a FastPass distribution kiosk near the Jungle Cruise ride.

It's a living landmark, hiding in plain sight.

Disneyland Grew Around This 118-Year-Old Palm Tree

Disneyland Grew Around This 118-Year-Old Palm Tree

Morgan Evans, the horticulturalist who oversaw Disneyland's original landscaping, tells the tree's story in Disneyland: World of Flowers, a 1965 book that's long been out of print:

Planted in 1896 by an early rancher, it was a stalwart and revered resident of his front lawn, admired by three generations of children and adults. One member of the family was married beneath it. When the owner of the land sold his acreage to Walt Disney in 1954, he requested that this venerable palm be preserved. Walt was more than happy to oblige, but since the tree stood in the middle of Section C of the projected parking lot, he ordered that it be carefully "balled," lifted tenderly from its old home and trundled, all 15 tons of it, to Adventureland.

Actually, saving the tree made sense for Disneyland. Once the bulldozers left, a eucalyptus windbreak and a few scattered orange trees were all that remained of the once-verdant landscape. Disney's Magic Kingdom was little more than a sandy waste.

Responsible for re-greening Disney's 160 acres, Evans and his brother Jack searched far and wide for trees that fit the character of the park's themed lands. His book bristles with details about how the horticulturalists met that challenge.

In the New Orleans Square area, for instance, the Evans placed four fig trees salvaged from downtown L.A.'s Pershing Square. And in Frontierland the Evans planted an already-mature Moreton Bay fig. A gift from an oil company, the tree came with a four-inch oil line embedded in its root structure. That pipe is still buried there today, near the entrance to the Pirates of the Caribbean.

The top image comes from Disneyland: World of Flowers (1965) by Morgan Evans; others are by the author.