25. Serra Palm Site

serra palms

Serra Palm, 1925The Serra Palm (also known as the “Mission Palm”), once thought to be the oldest palm tree in California, was allegedly planted by the Franciscan Fathers in 1769.

It marks the burial place of more than 60 victims of scurvy from ships of the José de Gálvez expedition in 1769. Father Junipero Serra here began El Camino Real, ‘first trodden by white men’ in 1769.

The last of four, the Serra Palm was cut down in 1957. Two others had been earlier uprooted and shipped to the San Diego exhibit of the 1916 Pan-American Exposition in Chicago. They did not survive the cold weather, and died before the run of the show.

Today, there are some palms planted in its place at the little-visited marker.

The postcard below promotes the old wives’ tale (or should that be old Franciscans’ tale?) the the Serra Palm was the first in Upper California. Not so. There are several types of indigenous palm trees in California, and San Diego in particular. Spanish soldiers even came upon the grove of native palms in what is now known as Palm Canyon, Anza-Borrego, while hunting for deserters.

Serra Palm postcard

Serra Palm Site
Presidio Park, SE corner of Taylor St and Presidio Dr
San Diego, CA