Xotx Tropica, WeHo’s Botanical Museum, May Be Closing

Leon Massoth

The West Hollywood City Council will consider Monday whether to take steps to require that new development projects include trees as part of an “urban forestry program.”

Meanwhile, Leon Massoth continues to worry that the greenest and most densely planted lot in West Hollywood will be totally deforested and

devegetated by its owner.

That lot, which is at 900 N. Fairfax Ave. at Willoughby, is home to Massoth’s Xotx Tropico Nursery, which is as much a museum of flora from around the world as it is a place to stop and shop for a potted plant.

“In my nursery, you are surrounded by a vast collection of flora. Point at anything, and I’ll tell you the story behind it,” Massoth said in a story about his nursery by Maria Bertrand that was published in West Hollywood Magazine. “Every plant has a story. That is an Ohi’a Lehua, famous in the lore of Hawaii. This one is a loulou palm—only five exist in the wild. That’s an aechmea tayoensis, a very rare plant from Ecuador.” Massoth pointed to a beautiful tree with light purple flowers, Bertrand writes, and said: “Take a look at this, it’s a giant tree passion flower that is extinct in the wild.”

Then he stopped in front of a small palm tree and rubbed its leaves. “Herbie Hancock’s wife brought the seed of this plant to me. It’s from Ground Zero. It’s a parasol tree, a symbol of survival. People bring me interesting seeds from all over because they know I have the ability to nurture them. Every seed, every plant, has a little trick. The seeds have revealed many of their tricks to me throughout the years.”

Massoth opened Xotx Tropica in 1988. He was following a passion he had had since the age of 12, when he made his first list of plants that he wanted to own. At the age of 17, he went to Central America to collect exotic plants.

“I have studied the flora of places all over the world, and I keep studying,” he said. “The idea here was to bring the plants out of the botany books to 3D life.”

Massoth said he became alarmed when a representative of 4D Development, the owner of the property, reached out recently to tell him that he had to move out by the end of December. “How can I move 30 plus years of horticulture by the end of December?” Massoth asked.

Massoth said he was told that 4D planned to construct a building with six condo units and a restaurant with 18 parking spaces on the lot. Then, Massoth said, another person came forward to say he was acquiring the property from 4D Development. Massoth couldn’t recall the name of that man, who he said was unclear about whether he would let Xotx Tropica remain. WEHOville has reached out to David Pourbaba, CEO of 4D Development, but as of publication hasn’t gotten a response.

When it comes to finding another location, Massoth said that the scarcity of land in West Hollywood is an issue. He said he has reached out to John Keho, the director of the city’s Planning and Development Services Department, to see if he could recommend a place where Xotx Tropica could move. Keho had no suggestions.

Massoth wants to remain in West Hollywood, where he has lived since 1978. He sees WeHo as a center of artistry and creativity and wants to continue contributing to that. He once donated a rare tree from Madagascar to the post office on San Vicente Boulevard. He also is responsible for some of the trees that line the streets of West Hollywood.

“I lived next to a street planner, and he gave me his proposal list,” Massoth said. “I spent over 100 hours analyzing the list, then I made a presentation in front of City Council with my own list and they listened to me. Now when you see a beautiful flowering tree in WeHo it likely came from my list.”

Massoth not only sells plants from Xotx Tropica, he also is a landscape designer with a list of important clients. But it is finding and growing and preserving endangered plants from around the world that is his real passion.

On a walk through the nursery, he tells how he spent six months traveling by boat through Brazil in a search for exotic plants. In addition to South America, he has traveled to Africa and Hawaii to collect botanic exotica.

In 1990, on one of his many trips, Massoth got out of a stalled plane and went on a search that turned up two seeds that now are colorful Bougainvillea in the lot on Fairfax. He also discovered, in Australia, a Chrysophyllum imperiale, which is a Brazilian tropical tree that has been designated as an endangered species. In his hands it has thrived.

Friends have launched a Change.org petition urging the City Council to do something to protect Xotx Tropica. It is close to reaching its goal of 1,500 signatures.

“This little corner of green is crucial to maintain the ‘web of life’ that struggles to exist in our urban cities,” says the petition. “Butterflies, bees, birds and many more organisms depend on this unique ecosystem continuing to function in the heart of our beloved city.”

Massoth spoke out at last month’s City Council meeting to ask for help, but to date hasn’t heard from any elected officials.


18
Please leave a reply of no more than 300 words, focused on the issue and not fellow commenters.

avatar
2000
11 Comment threads
7 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
13 Comment authors
Eric DanielTruth in GovtJoseVigilantMichael Grace Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Eric Daniel
Guest
Eric Daniel

I had no idea this was a museum. When ever i pass it, it was that annoying spot on the walk where i would have to swat away nats and mosquitoes.

Vigilant
Guest
Vigilant

Mr. Massoth may want to directly contact David Pourbaba, CEO of 4D as according to InfoMap, which shows development projects throughout the city of WH, there does not appear to yet be a listing that would indicate that a Development Application has been submitted.

InfoMap can be found on the Weho.org website under Planning & Development if anyone is curious about what is or may be hatching in their neighborhood.

Vigilant
Guest
Vigilant

After studying the city’s list of potential trees, doing 100 hours of analysis to make recommendations to the city regarding among others, the flowering trees we all enjoy, John Keho had no suggestions for alternate locations? Pitiful!

Michael Grace
Guest
Michael Grace

Businesses don’t have the backing of the WEHO political elite. This town is owned by developers. White male developers. Who own the City Council lock stock and barrel. Racist West Hollywood is corrupt. Just look at the Ed Buck coverup.

Larry Block
Guest
Larry Block

How bout the empty lot on Santa Monica around Astro burger opposite corner I think it’s at Santa Monica and Vista

Truth in Govt
Guest
Truth in Govt

that’s about to be another high rise housing project

Oh no
Guest
Oh no

Another one bites the dust, sad, I loved going in here when I was a kid, amazing plants all around. I’m surprised they are not putting another hotel in?
Signed, Bitter I miss what my hometown was

Joshua88
Guest
Joshua88

We need all the living flora here, there, and everywhere.

Steve
Guest
Steve

If nothing else, let the man move these beautiful plants to that empty lot the city owns on the corner of Santa Monica and Crescent Heights. The city should pay him to create a gorgeous green space there.

Oh no
Guest
Oh no

Great idea

cody warlock
Guest
cody warlock

Its a shame the fate of these businesses are in the hands of the greedy corrupt weho city council. I hope some day the state of CA will put a stop to it and brings them all up on charges.

Oh no
Guest
Oh no

Yeah but when & if someday ever comes, everything will be destroyed and all thar will be left is a bunch of empty floor level retails and a ton of empty condo’s & apt”s also empty that no one can afford

WEHOBOB
Guest
WEHOBOB

One of my favorite places, always loved roaming the narrow pathways looking for the right plant – only downside was coming across all the bags & boxes of rattlesnake repellant placed throughout the grounds … was scared I accidentally would find one of our scaly friends when reaching for a plant. My fear of snakes was overcome by the people & surroundings.

Lauren
Guest
Lauren

Museum? Come on folks. There is a housing crisis across California and LA. The site is currently closed off to the sidewalks and creates zero pedestrian activism. Anything here would be better than this and an improvement. I’m sure the multiple landlords have been subsidizing the rent for years.

Gwen
Guest
Gwen

I love this place. I live alone and comming here always lifts my spirit. PLEASE West Hollywood don’t let this place slip through your fingers. It can’t be about money all the time.

Oh no
Guest
Oh no

So true hope he finds someplace to move to

Oh no
Guest
Oh no

Let me guess you’re new to the area, right? By all means let’s remove anything that used to make the WeHo area interesting

Jose
Guest
Jose

A housing crisis? What do you expect when you invite 1 1/2 million illegal aliens (who pay zero in income taxes and depress wages for the Working Class). If this treasure isn’t offering the Crooked City Council a kickback they are not interested.