Ancient Indian-era oaks respond to fire mimicry

2 12 2017

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Three years ago I treated several ancient, Indian-era oaks with fire mimicry. These oak have classic lapsed-pollard shapes, indicating they were culturally modified by the native people several hundred years ago. Every oak shown here (above an below) is over 200 years old, and possibly much older. The lapsed-pollard shape is evident by the multiple large boles branching from one location near the base of the trunk. Younger oaks of the same species growing nearby typically exhibit a dichotomous branching pattern, so the anomalous shapes of these older oaks is most likely an indication that they were culturally modified (pollarded) at a younger age by California native people. The present day forms of these trees show that the pollards have lapsed, that is, the trees are no longer being tended. Pollarding is a widely used modern tending practice in orchard trees, creating broad spreading canopies that maximize fruit or nut production.

In my mind, the ancient oaks shown here are Native Americans artifacts. These oaks provided the primary sustenance of the local tribes, acorn. Oak orchards were grown, tended, and shaped by the native people in ways that helped to sustain both themselves and the bountiful wildlife.

It’s nice to have a proven model for oak forest restoration. It is the model I and others are following. Please enjoy these results!

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Fire mimicry is improving the health of oaks in Redwood City, CA

22 11 2017

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Today I would like to show you the progress of some oaks that were treated with fire mimicry starting in 2013. Previous years’ results with the same trees are shown here and here. As can be seen in these photos, most of the oaks are continuing to show a strong and in some cases a dramatic response to the treatments, including the last tree in the series which is a Native American era heritage oak. The photos speak for themselves. Enjoy!

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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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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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Indigenous-based tending of oaks: eleven year results

23 11 2016

 

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Eleven years ago I began treating this grove of oaks in Hillsborough, CA using indigenous-based methods (ie. fire mimicry). These sets of photos show their response after 11 years of care.

These are very significant results in that they show that these methods result in long-term (decade+) sustained recovery of oaks that were in decline.

Oak lovers and tree huggers, please take notice! And, please, thank the native ancestors for showing us the way!

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This last oak has been pruned since the initial photo. Note also that the roofline has been altered by construction, obscuring part of the tree. This oak has been infected with a stem canker disease (probably Sudden Oak Death) for the entire period. Despite the disease infection, which has been reduced via fertilization and surgery, this tree remains in relatively good health.





California oak mortality reversed!

23 11 2016

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Here in California there’s been, rightfully, much attention paid to a recent report on the death of more than 100 million trees in the state. Sadly, there has been no talk of solutions, even in the face of clear evidence that prescribed fire and other indigenous-based tending practices (e.g. fire mimicry) improve forest health.

Today I offer, yet again, further evidence of our ability to address the death and decline of oak trees. The coast live oaks shown here are located in Redwood City, CA and were all treated with fire mimicry 3 years ago. Yesterday I revisited these oaks, some of them heritage oaks, and took photos to assess the changes in their canopies over that time. In my view, the decline of the oaks here has not only been abated, it has been reversed, as most of the oaks are showing a clear improvement in the fullness of their canopies.

How many more observations and studies of successful forest restoration efforts are required before more people start acting to save our trees?

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Healing heritage oaks

1 11 2016

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Two years ago I had the task of helping a grove of struggling heritage oaks in Redwood City. All of the mature oaks are centuries old and reveal signs of having been tended by native people. I’m happy to say that after two years of applying fire mimicry methods based on traditional ecological knowledge these oaks are making a strong recovery.

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