Moreton Bay Fig Tree
Located at the corner of Montecito and Chapala Streets, Santa Barbara’s Moreton Bay Fig Tree arrived in 1876 as a seedling from its native Australia. The 140 year old tree has since grown to a height of 80 feet and its canopy to a distance of almost 200 feet which provides over 20,000 square feet of shade. It’s trunk now measures an impressive 12.5 feet in diameter and it is thought to be one of the largest fig trees in North America, although there are nearby trees competing for that title in Los Angles and San Diego.
Backstory and Context
This particular Moreton Bay Fig Tree was brought from Australia by a sailor and given as a gift to a young woman who originally planted it at 201 State St. However, she moved from the area the next year and the tree was transplanted to its current location by the girl’s friend, Adeline Crabb. The plot she chose was the property of the Southern Pacific Transportation Company and is located just a few blocks from the ocean.
The construction of route 101 threatened the very existence of the tree in the 1950s, but due to local outcry, the highway was re-routed to spare the venerable tree. It was then designated a historic landmark in 1970 and the land it occupies was deeded to the city in 1976. It has also been placed on the California Register of Big Trees.
It is now popular among photography buffs and tourists alike who marvel at it massive size and impressive above-ground root system. A small chain fence has been placed around the tree’s root structure to protect it from vandals and climbing accidents. It is visible from the 101 as well as satellite imagery.