Take Two for February 15, 2013

Unforbidden Fruit: When is it legal to pick public fruit trees? (Photos)

Fallen Fruit

Josie Huang

Austin Young, co-founder of the Fallen Fruit, shows off the lemon that he picked off a branch in his Silver Lake neighborhood. (Josie Huang)

Austin Young plucks an orange off a tree branch that hangs over the owner's wall and into a public space- which means it's ripe for the taking.

Lemon tree branches hang over an alley in Silver Lake. It's fair game.

Tess Vigeland gives public fruit picking a try for the first time --- and feels good about it.


The chances of a meteor landing here in Los Angeles are pretty slim, but you're much more likely to be hit on the head by falling fruit.

Walk around your neighborhood in L.A. and you might see a neighbor's tree brimming with fruit ripe for picking. It might be tempting to help yourself, but is it legal?

RELATED: See a collection of Fallen Fruit's public fruit maps

Host Tess Vigeland hit the sidewalk with Austin Young of the art collective Fallen Fruit to find out the legal implications of picking fruit in your neighborhood. For starters, he said it's okay to pick as long as the fruit is in public space.  

"There's no written law about who owns the fruit that's hanging into public space, but there is a common law about neighbors," said Young. "If fruit hangs over from your neighbor's tree into your yard, then that fruit is technically yours or you can cut those branches out. When Fallen Fruit began mapping fruit in 2004, that was the idea we were looking at. Who owns that fruit."

Fallen Fruit maps public fruit trees in various cities, giving neighborhood-dwellers a guide to legally pickable fruit. However, there is always the chance a homeowner won't want his or her house advertised as fair game. 

"We've had the rare person maybe four or five times email us and say my house is on your map please take it off. We'll remove it," said Young. "We like to think our project ultimately is about sharing, and neighborhoods can be generous, and they can be stingy. But I find people want to share their fruit."


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