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Sebastopol rallies around the bunya bunya tree

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013 | Posted by


Sebastopol’s landmark tree at the corner of Morris Street and Sebastopol Avenue is not a native, but it has stood for so many generations as landmark that many were upset that it might have to go. There will be a meeting about it at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16, at Sebastopol City Hall.

It is a bunya bunya tree from Australia, and there has been speculation for years that it was planted by Luther Burbank. In Australia, the tree is apparently considered sacred by the Aborigines.

Sebastopol’s bunya bunya is 80 feet tall and male, so there is no danger from falling pine cones, but it is so old and has such a developed root system that the Barlow Project may be forced to cut it down to make room for a pedestrian crossing.

“This was discovered late in construction when they first went to start construction on the crossing,” said Sebastopol Planner Kenyon Webster.

The developers tried to get approval to cut the tree on Jan. 2, but the Tree Board of the Planning Department ruled there wasn’t enough public notice given and continued the item to Jan. 16.

According to Yolanda Lopez, a representative of the Barlow, owner Barney Aldridge is heartbroken. “He loves the tree. We’d love it if we could get the city and CalTrans to push back and relax their standards somewhat. We’ve had the city engineer, our engineer, a landscape architect and an arborist out there to look at it.”

Unless someone comes up with a solution at the Jan. 16 meeting, it appears it’s bye bye bunya bunya, and the end of a living Sebastopol landmark.


  • eric arneson

    Why isnt this specimen a Heritage tree or under any other protection? It has so much history especially if it was planted by Luther Burbank. It is a symbol of California’s early obsession with exotic plants that has shaped our current landscape.

    This tree is a gift from those who planted it and should be enjoyed and celebrated. “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

  • http://sporelore.com Tony McGuigan

    The bunya bunya tree is an oasis for wildlife faced with encroaching urban development. The towering and voluminous tree represents habitat connectivity which becomes increasingly important as natural spaces are destroyed. Buildings, parking lots, and roads are not “development” to wildlife!

    I am a Sebastopol resident, author of Habitat It and They Will Come, and will be at the January 16th meeting at Sebastopol City Hall.

    Thank you, Andrea Granahan and The Press Democrat, for your article.

    Tony McGuigan

  • Max

    That’s so, so wrong.

  • Reality Check

    Got to love Sebastopol where trees have more rights than people. Now I know where all the communists went!

  • Ed Gray

    As a certified Arborist I am amazed that this beautiful specimen, has not been designated a historical land mark. Especially considering is was likely planted by Luther Burbank. As an individual that has admired and enjoyed this tree for several years, I am not surprised that development threatens it’s existence.
    There is an alternative that will satisfy all parties without removing the tree. I would encourage anyone and everyone that has any interest in saving this wonderful landmark, attend the city council meeting on January 16th.
    This tree is also known as a Monkey Puzzle Tree.

  • http://none Robert

    Keep getting rid of the trees and we will look like santa rosa

  • eric arneson

    Santa Rosa still has 3 very large specimens of this same tree (Aracauria bidwillii). One at railroad square, SRJC and one on Sonoma Ave.

  • josh

    I love how Cal Trans always want’s to cut it down….Just work around it….nothing is impossible…..If they cut it down Sebastopol will live to there name…..Cucumbers!!!!Green on the outside White in the middle.

  • Mike

    A side walk may work around the north side then to the east to the cross walk with only 1/3 of the roots disturbed. Who’s doing the grading plan? Seems people have been using that cross walk for years prior to the Barlow Project. Why not get a wavier? It may not meet ADA compliance but could be made a lot better then it is now for access and the historic tree can remain on the Sebastopol skyline for all to enjoy.

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