June 2, 2005 - Ed and the Giant Fig Tree
There once was a time when one of the biggest tourist attractions in Santa Barbara was a tree. A big fig tree you could see from the freeway. The tree is still there, presumably even bigger than it was before. And many people still know about it. Its common name around town is “The Fig Tree”. Back in the day, you could see it as you idled on 101, waiting for the red light on the freeway to turn green, or on Anacapa waiting (usually with your engine off because the light was 7 minutes long) to cross over to the freeway to the other side.
Yesterday, the fig tree was the subject of a close-up photo in Edhat’s Wednesday Where Is It (WWII) contest.
There are many names carved into the tree. It stands to reason that one of them would be Ed.
The tree is reported to be the largest of its species (Moreton Bay Fig) in North America. Of course, being the biggest of a species is only meaningful when there are a lot of that species around. And since Moreton Bay is in Australia (named in 1770 by Captain Cook), Moreton Bay Fig trees are not exactly filling the landscape. In any case, this species of tree is one of the largest there is. So, being a big tree in a small forest still makes for an impressive sight. In 1991, the diameter of the branches (spread) was measured to be 167 feet across. By 1997, the tree had grown to 176 feet across. For comparison, the much-heralded Moreton Bay Fig tree in San Diego’s Balboa Park is only 123 feet across. A City engineer once estimated that 10,450 persons could stand in the shade of our fig tree at noon.
The story goes that in 1876, a sailor gave the seedling tree to a local girl. She planted it. A year later,
another local girl, Adeline Crabb, replanted it at its current location. Oh, if she could see it now! Like Jack’s famous beanstalk it grew and grew and grew.
Not exactly designed as "mixed use", that our planning officials now call for, the fig tree has always been just that – both a tourist attraction and a place for the homeless to sleep. In fact, rumor has it that many homeless people use 100 W. Montecito Street as their mailing address. Once Ed Kozdrey, Jr (no relation), erected a red-white-and-blue mailbox at the spot. He was interested in voting and needed his materials delivered.
These days, there are fewer homeless and fewer tourists. The tree is only visible from underused Montecito Street, and to people using the rear entrance (and exit) to the City’s Amtrak parking lot. The dedicated staff of edhat.com had a brief chat on Tuesday with Juanita, one of Santa Barbara’s extremely kind parking lot attendants, who does her shift at the kiosk by the tree. A native Santa Barbaran, she remembers the fig tree from the old days, but laments that not as many people know about it today. It seems that other not-so-grand Moreton Figs in town (at the Mission and in Montecito) are getting more attention.
We were accused of being obscure with yesterday’s WWII photo, but these days we have to be tricky or the Edhat dog will get fat from eating too much popcorn!
As it was, while many subscribers were barking up the wrong tree, 11 of them guessed the correct location. The winners were, KTDoc, Bloo188, Linnyg, Labradoodle, Krg805, Nejstgaard, IronScotty, n322718, John Monika, Nicki, and RosieBoop. To break the tie, the Edhat dog was presented with 11 pieces of popcorn. Every dog has its day – and dogs stick together. LabraDoodle’s popcorn was eaten first, making him/her the winner of the coveted Edhat t-shirt.
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