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Meet Phoenix's first palm tree, thanks in part to a prominent lawyer

The City of Phoenix recently posted photos on its Instagram account of what's believed to be its first palm tree ever planted.
Credit: City of Phoenix

PHOENIX — Dirt roads, horse-drawn carriages, and a thousand residents are what characterized the small village of Phoenix in 1879.

However, the city's first towering palm tree would also become its first attraction, according to Phoenix Historian Steve Schumacher.

EN ESPAÑOL: Conozca la primera palmera de Phoenix, gracias en parte a un destacado abogado

The City of Phoenix recently posted photos on its Instagram account of what's believed to be its first palm tree ever planted.

"People, when they came through Phoenix, wherever they were headed... stopping at the tree and taking a photograph would be a regular occurrence," Schumacher said in a video posted by the City of Phoenix at the start of 2022

"It was always on the list of things to see and take a photograph of."

The palm tree made its way to Arizona as a seed in the luggage of one of Maricopa County's first attorneys: Alexander Lemon. Lemon, who later would become a prominent Arizona judge, got the palm tree seeds during a trip to Hawaii.

Clara Evans, a woman remembered in Arizona history as a trailblazing member of the state's board of education, knew Lemon. He gave her some of the seeds and the above picture was the result.

It turns out that Evans isn't only a trailblazer in state education, but also in palm tree cultivation.

"Having palm trees on your property became a sign of prominence," Schumacher said. "Once [Evans] planted it and people started becoming accustomed to seeing it and became interested in it, obviously others took other seeds and seedlings and planted them."

Unfortunately, the palm tree is no longer still standing. The site where Evans's palm tree sat is now taken up by an apartment complex in downtown Phoenix.

Even though the original palm tree isn't standing, both Evans and Lemmon played a significant role in shaping the aesthetics of the Valley. Flash forward to today, and palm trees are one of the defining features of the Phoenix skyline.

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