Five year results of fire mimicry on oaks in Hillsborough, CA

24 04 2017

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Last week I inspected several coast live oaks that have received three fire mimicry treatments over the past five years. A couple of these oaks have bleeding stem cankers (probably Sudden Oak Death) that have been treated surgically as well. It will be a few more years before I know if the diseased oaks have recovered, but in the meantime these and the other uninfected oaks appear to be doing fairly well.

A couple of the oaks have lost a few limbs in the storms this past year, but are otherwise healthy. I should add that the wet winter has played some role in the improved canopies, however, results from these same oaks in prior years (2013, 2015) indicate noticeable improvement even under severe drought conditions.

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Oaks in Glen Ellen, CA responding to fire mimicry

20 04 2017

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Seven years ago I began treating a group of coast live oaks with fire mimicry. Several of the oaks are infected with bleeding stem cankers, probably Sudden Oak Death. Despite being diseased, the oaks have shown a steady recovery over the years as can be seen in these photos from 2013, and 2015. On Tuesday I checked on these oaks again and as the photos here show their health, for the most part, continues to improve.

For all the fear-filled hype about diseases and insect pests ravaging our forests, I find very little news about the fact that, whether or not the trees are infected with this disease or infested with that pest or stressed by climate change, sick trees can be brought back to health. I know this from doing the work, treating sick trees, and seeing the results such as these.

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Lebanese cedar trees in Los Altos, CA improving with fire mimicry

8 04 2017

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Six years ago I was approached by a property owner in Los Altos, CA who had two large Lebanese cedar trees, one of which was not doing well. He had been advised by another tree expert to remove the sick cedar. This cedar has some sort of bleeding stem infection at the base and a fairly thin canopy. Rather than removing it, the owner called me to assess the problem. I told him frankly that I had no experience treating Lebanese cedars, but that it may be worth a trying the fire mimicry treatments I had been using to improve the health of oaks and other trees. He decided to proceed with the treatments. I applied a mineral poultice to the base of the sick cedar and amended the soils with an alkaline-rich blend of minerals and compost tea to both the sick cedar and the adjacent healthier cedar. I have repeated these treatments three times in the past 6 years. In just a few years there was noticeable improvement in the cedars. On Wednesday I checked on these trees again and found that both have continued to improve. Before-and-after photos of the two cedars are shown above and below.

There are many sick trees that some tree experts say there is no recourse other than to remove them. While this may be the only option is some cases, I’m now convinced that it is often not necessary to remove a sick tree. There are any number of techniques for saving trees that conventional tree experts are not using, such as soil fertilization, removal of mosses and lichens, poultice application to the trunks, and surgical removal of infections, and cauterization of wounds. Together, these techniques can make the difference between removing a tree and saving a tree!

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Oaks in Marin respond to fire mimicry

24 03 2017

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On Monday I checked on three coast live oaks trees in Marin County, CA that I’ve been treating with fire mimicry for several years. The first case study (above and below photos) shows the recovery of a large oak after five years of ongoing  fire mimicry treatments. The canopy of this oak is clearly lusher and denser compared to the time of initial treatment.

To remind the reader, fire mimicry treatments are based on traditional forest management practices used by past and present native people in California and elsewhere. The treatments focus on creating habitat and soil conditions favorable for oaks and other native trees.

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(Note that the pine tree behind this oak has since been removed.)

The next case study is a large coast live oak that has received ongoing fire mimicry treatments for three years, as well as several surgical procedures on stem cankers. When I first examined this oak it was severely defoliated and had several small stem cankers (possibly Sudden Oak Death disease) in the trunk. I told the owner that I was not sure the oak could be saved, but he insisted I try. It appears that the owner’s insistence has paid off. The oak has shown a noticeable improvement in canopy lushness and density (see photo sets below). Read the rest of this entry »





Big Sur oaks respond to fire mimcry

13 03 2017

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Three years ago I began fire mimicry treatment on a grove of coast live oaks here in Big Sur. This is an area with serious oak decline problems, with many oaks having stem cankers (probably Sudden Oak Death). My crew and I did significant clearing and pruning of the oaks and fertilized the soils with compost tea and alkaline-rich minerals, and I performed stem canker surgeries on several of the oaks. The owner was adamant that we NOT apply a limewash to the trunks, due to the aesthetics of the white-trunk trees. The oaks were treated again in 2015 with compost tea and soil minerals.

Today I visited the oaks and re-photographed them. Here are the results. While most of the oaks showed a positive response, some did not. My sense is that limewashing the trunks would have given better results. Still, it is useful to see that clearing, pruning, compost tea, and soil minerals, without limewash, can benefit the oaks.

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Forest restoration after the 2015 Valley Fire in Lake County, CA

5 03 2017
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Forest devastation following the Valley Fire in Lake County. Photo taken in October 2015.

In 2015 a devastating wildfire consumed large areas of Lake County, California. Prior to the fires I had been working with some properties affected by the fires and soon afterwards I visited these areas, volunteering my time, to help guide the land managers on how best to manage their lands after the fires. Yesterday I heard back from one of my friends asking about specifics in restoring their forests. My response seems appropriate for a wider audience, so I am posting it here as general informati0n for those who have been affected by wildfires, as well as those who have not . . . Read the rest of this entry »





Diseased oaks flourishing after 12 years

29 11 2016

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Twelve years ago today I initiated fire mimicry treatments on a grove of diseased coast live oaks in Marin County, CA. Since then Leith Carstarphen has been doing the followup work on these trees. Several of these oaks have stem canker infections, probably Sudden Oak Death disease. Two of the oaks in this grove have since died from stem canker infections, but the remainder of the oaks are clearly flourishing.

I should note that, for the above oak, the yellow appearance of the foliage in the recent (right) photo is due to dense clusters of yellowish male flowers.

These thriving oaks stand as testimony to the long-term efficacy of indigenous-based tending techniques (e.g., fire mimicry) in restoring the health of oak forests.

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