Today my dear friend Donna Shoemaker, her friends Dick and Bob (real characters), Greg from Marin County Open Space (our helpful guide), and I ventured up King Mountain to do another fire mimicry treatment on an ancient coast live oak affectionately known as “grandfather oak”.
In the fall of 2007 Donna first contacted me about her concerns for the health of grandfather oak, a centuries-old coast live oak living on King Mountain Open Space near Larkspur. In November 2007 Donna and I hiked up to grandfather oak and I found it to be very sick. The tree was covered in mosses and lichens and had recently lost a major branch. It was situated on hillside heavily overgrown with French broom, poison oak, and young bay trees. The trunk had bleeding cankers indicative of Sudden Oak Death infection. I informed her that I felt fire mimicry treatments could help bring grandfather oak back to a healthier state and allow it to live longer, but that it was questionable whether the tree could fight off the Sudden Oak Death infection.
Donna wished to proceed and made arrangements for me to treat the centuries-old oak. On December 7, 2007 several of us, including Donna, Daniel Brooke, Leith Carstarphen, and a number of Marin Open Space personnel began work on grandfather oak. Donna and I and others (Daniel Brooke, Chuck Hirsch) have returned to perform additional treatments on the tree on various occasions including today.
In December of 2007 Richard Halstead wrote an article “Sudden Oak Death roars back” for the Marin IJ in which he described my treatment approach to save grandfather oak, and then remarked that “scientists studying the disease expect the (fire mimicry) treatments will prove futile”. Well, after 2 years and 4 months grandfather oak has something to say to those “scientists studying the disease”. While it is too soon to know whether or not grandfather oak will eventually succumb to Sudden Oak Death, it is apparent from the photos below that, as of today, the tree is looking healthier.