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Money does grow on trees for Auburn owner of rare palm

A backyard investment, the century-old Chilean palm turns into surprise cash asset for Placer County family and is now bound for Dallas
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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It’s not often that you have a 15-ton, 30-foot-high asset growing in your backyard. Roger and Chris Jacobs discovered that their Chilean wine palm was both rare and valuable when a tree trimmer balked at climbing up the trunk with his spikes on. “He said ‘uh-uh – I won’t put spikes in a tree like this,’” Chris Jacobs said. Tuesday, it was time to say good-bye to a tree that had been planted perhaps a century ago and had grown in value as it grew in height. Any pain from losing the palm was lessened by the check for $7,500 the Jacobs family had already cashed. The Jacobs family sold their tree to the Dallas World Aquarium. It’s due to arrive there Friday, where it will stand near a bridge in a zoo area. San Diego’s Sunset Palms used a crane to lift it up and put it on a flatbed for the 3,000-mile trip to the Lone Star State. Sunset Palms owner Roy Tuck compared the work to pulling a tooth. After a little wiggling, the tree’s base was freed from any remaining roots and hoisted out of the yard. The Chilean palm will do well in Dallas because it can take the cold better than others, Tuck said. The tree was believed to have been planted by Dr. Max Dunievitz, an Auburn doctor who had owned the land the Jacobs’ house sits on in the early part of the 20th century. The doctor had planted several other exotic trees on his property. The Jacobs’ palm is near a row of taller palms that stand along Palm Avenue, near the Placer County line with the city. But those trees are California fan palms and indigenous to the state. Tuck was able to find another Chilean palm the same size for sale in Mountain View. It’s already in Dallas. Another tree owner in Los Angeles pulled out of a sale at the last minute, leaving the Auburn palm in line for a long-distance journey to a new home in Texas and the Jacobses in line for a surprise payday. The Jacobses, who live on Grove Court, had initially offered their tree on Craigslist and then contacted palm dealers. Chris Jacobs said she wouldn’t be surprised if the final cost to the aquarium for the tree didn’t reach $30,000 to $40,000. Tuck said the tree would have fetched much more during better economic conditions. That would have meant $2,000 or $3,000 a foot. “But in this economy, I’ve kind of donated it,” he said. Roger Jacobs said he likes the idea of the palm getting some visibility in Dallas. “The money’s cool but I like the idea that it’s going to be seen by thousands of people from around the world,” he said.