Laguna Beach injects ficus trees to stop masses of messy berries

Visitors to Ocean Avenue in Laguna Beach will get a bit of a break from the berries that fall from the ficus trees and blanket the ground and vehicles, creating a mess.

City officials recently reported that a growth regulator injected into 20 of the street’s trees has been successful in slowing the production of the berries.

Crews began using the product Atrimmec on the trees two years ago, and based on the results, city officials plan to expand the program to other ficus trees downtown.

“Ocean Avenue has a lot of ficus trees, and we’ve received complaints about the berries on cars and the sidewalk,” Laguna Beach’s Public Works Director Steve May said.

The chemical blocks plant hormones that stimulate growth and reduces the need for trimming and pruning. The chemical is also expected to improve a plant’s appearance by gradually filling in growth and providing a more uniform, compact shape, according to PBI-Gordon Corp.’s website.

The Kansas City, Mo.-based company manufactures Atrimmec, which can also be sprayed on trees, hedges, shrubs and groundcover.

The city tried spraying the product onto trees, but that method was ineffective, May said. Timing is important; the product needs to be injected into trees before the berries start falling.

Berries typically appear on the trees during summer and early fall, said Ruben Flores, owner of Laguna Nursery and president of the Laguna Beach Beautification Council, whose mission is to maintain the city’s natural beauty and cleanliness.

“If applied correctly, [Atrimmec] works quite well,” Flores said.

The city spent $1,000 on the trees — $50 per tree for a yearly injection — and plans to spend the same amount on 20 other ficus trees downtown, May said.

At this point, there are no plans to use the product on other types of trees, he added.

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