A Decade of Fire Mimicry

30 12 2019
Oak dieback

Dead an dying coast live oak trees in Big Sur, CA

The past decade has been a tough one on California oaks. Tens of thousands of oaks have died and many more are in distress, simply because they are no longer being tended. For millennia the Indigenous People of California used, and still use, fire to improve the health of the native trees and forests.

Also over the past decade I and others have been tasked with restoring to health many of these oaks. During this time we have tended well over 1,000 oaks and other trees, with mostly positive, if not remarkable, results. Due to the severely overgrown nature of fire-suppressed forests, applying fire is not an immediate option. Therefore, we have been developing tending practices that mimic fire in ways that benefit the oaks.

Below are a selection of oaks, one per year of this past decade, that have inspired me to stay committed to tending our oaks. Many of these are legacies of the indigenous past and will, with our help, continue to be legacies in our future.

A decade of healing oaks . . .

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Hearst Castle oak – 2010

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Fairfax oak – 2011

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Fire Mimicry: Treated vs. Untreated

8 12 2019

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As most of my clients chose to have me treat all of their oaks with fire mimicry, I don’t often get the chance to compare treated vs. untreated oaks in the same landscape setting. However, last year a client had me treat come oaks, but not the others. Here are the before-and-after photos of two oaks that were treated (above), compared to another that was not treated (below). One of the above oaks (Case No. 20181203.2) was infected with a stem canker disease (probably Sudden Oak Death), which was surgically removed in 2018.

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Culturally-modified Indian-era oaks respond to fire mimicry

15 11 2019

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Five years ago I began fire mimicry treatments on a grove of ancient, Indian-era coast live oaks that have clear signs of being culturally modified (ie. pollarded). This past week I checked on the status of these oaks and the entire grove continues to show strong improvement in canopy density and greenness. And in an area of rapidly spreading Sudden Oak Death, none of these trees have contracted this disease.

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Oaks and other trees in Atherton, CA respond to fire mimicry

7 06 2019

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Last year I (and my dedicated crew) treated several coast live oaks along with a valley oak, a California buckeye, a jacaranda, and an ornamental pear with fire mimicry. Yesterday I inspected and re-photographed these trees. Here are the photos showing the results after just one year. I’m happy to report that most of the trees are showing a noticeable increase in canopy density and greenness. BTW, four of the coast live oaks are infected with a stem canker disease, probably Sudden Oak Death. Bet you can’t tell which oaks are infected!

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Oaks in Burlingame, CA respond to fire mimicry

22 04 2019

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Last week I inspected a grove of oaks in Burlingame, CA that I’ve been tending with fire mimicry for five years. Here are recent photos showing their progress . . .

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Fire mimicry results after 7 years in Hillsborough, CA

17 04 2019

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Today I inspected several coast live oaks that I began treating with fire mimicry in 2012. the photos above an below shoe the progress of these oaks over the past 7 years. If you believe that these results are due to the recent wet weather, please scroll down to see results from the drought years.

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Coast live oaks in Woodside, CA show modest response after single fire mimicry treatment

27 11 2018

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Yesterday I visited several coast live oaks in Woodside, CA that had been treated in March 2017 with fire mimicry. After about 1.5 years the oaks are generally showing a modest improvement, mainly in overall canopy greenness and increased density in the lower canopies.

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