Spray may solve city’s dilemma

Six Pittosporum trees became an allergy nightmare for one Easton Drive resident, but a local arborist says the problem likely has a cheap, hassle-free solution.

Thomas Hornblower first wrote the city in March to request removal of the flowering trees outside his home on Easton at Vancouver Drive. He told the city’s Beautification Commission in May that he is allergic to the tree’s blooms and noted that even the strong citrus smell of the blooms forces him to stay indoors much of the time.

The Beautification Commission is set to take up the issue again at its meeting next week.

Hornblower said he was willing to help fund the cost of removing the trees, which, according to arborist Kevin Kielty, can grow to more than 25 feet tall and are often used in planting strips or are trimmed into hedges to form natural barriers around private properties. The flowers typically bloom in late winter or early spring.

Kielty, who is advising the city on this issue, will suggest the city use an acidic spray to stop the tree from flowering. Interim City Manager Randy Schwartz said the commission will likely get on board with the plan, especially since pruning trees can get expensive year to year. Spraying the six trees will likely only cost $300 annually, Kielty said.

“It keeps the flowers from growing, and at the same time, we don’t have to cut the tree down or constantly be up there pruning it,” Kielty said.

There is currently an acidic spray that tree experts use to stop growth of fruit on olive and gingko trees — which typically prompt plenty of complaints because they leave messy residue on cars, homes and sidewalks. Kielty is hoping to apply this same idea to stop or slow flower growth on trees.

Though allergy-sufferers typically blame their seasonal woes on trees with big or bright flowers, Kielty said pine, oak, redwood and olive trees are often the culprits.

The city has between 16,000 and 18,000 trees, Schwartz said, earning it the nickname “The City of Trees.”

“It really seems like the best solution for everyone at this point,” Schwartz said. “We don’t want to set a precedent for cutting down all our city trees.”

tramroop@examiner.com

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