Happy Earth Day 2021! A hopeful message from the oaks …

22 04 2021

Happy Earth Day 2021 from Sudden Oak Life! Here are some coast live oaks that I inspected yesterday, 9 years after starting fire mimicry treatments. Several of the oaks were pruned two years ago, hence the differences in canopy structure. However, the canopy density and lushness has clearly improved in most cases.

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Grandmother oak 4-year update

5 03 2021

Fours years ago we began fire mimicry treatments on an ancient, Ohlone-era coast live oak near Loma Mar, CA. Affectionately called Grandmother oak by the owners, she measures 17′ 8″ in circumference and is likely more than 500 years old. We started by clearing away the woody understory, removing nearby young firs and bays, and pruning off the dead lower limbs. Then we fertilized with compost tea and alkaline-rich minerals, and applied a limewash to the trunk. We repeated the fertilization treatments for two additional years. Above and below are photos showing how Grandmother oak has responded to care we gave her. She sure seems happier and more vibrant to me!





Atherton oaks on the mend …

14 02 2021

Happy Valentines Day! A little over 2 years ago I began fire mimicry treatments on three sick heritage oaks in Atherton, CA. The third oak in this series has a severe stem canker infection, probably Sudden Oak Death, that was surgically treated. Here are the results showing a noticeable improvement in the density of the oak canopies.





Fire mimicry results with Lebanese cedar, sycamore, redwood, and coast live oaks

7 05 2020

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Several years ago I began fire mimicry treatments on some Lebanese cedar, sycamore, coast redwood, and coast live oak trees in Los Altos, CA. The before-and-after photos  shown here indicate that the treatments were effective in improving the health of the trees.

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Recovery of a coast redwood after construction damage

6 05 2020

In 2011 I was approached by a land owner who wanted to do construction around the base of a coast redwood. About a quarter of the root system of the tree would have to be removed in the process. I advised fire mimicry treatment of the tree prior to excavation, and follow up treatments afterwards. I told him that the tree would likely show a decreased canopy following the root damage, but that with proper care it could recover.  The owner agreed to my plan, so I treated the redwood before construction, and several years post construction. The repeat photo series below shows the progress of the recovery over that past 9 years. This is a fine example of the great resilience of redwoods!

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Coast live oaks, pines, and redwoods in the Bay Area respond to fire mimicry

27 04 2020

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Today I inspected several oaks, pines, and redwood trees that have received fire mimicry treatments in recent years. The coast live oak above has been treated periodically for 8 years. The results shown above and below provide encouraging news about our ability to bring sick and diseased trees back to health using an ecological approach to tree care.

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Grandmother oak, year 3

9 03 2020

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Three years ago I began fire mimicry treatments on an ancient coast live oak (estimated at over 500 years old) in Loma Mar, CA that shows clear signs of being pollarded and otherwise tended by the Costanoan Ohlone native people. As reported in a previous post on Grandmother oak, the massive tree was heavily overgrown with young bay laurel and Douglas fir trees under and around the canopy. Several of the limbs were dying and the canopy was thin and sickly. We cleared away the young trees, pruned some of the lower branches, removed the mosses and lichens from the trunk, fertilized the soils with compost tea and alkaline-rich minerals, and applied a limewash to the main trunk. The photo sets above and below show how well this oak has responded to the renewed care. Enjoy!

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Diseased oaks in Los Altos, CA respond to fire mimicry

7 03 2020

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Three years ago I began fire mimicry treatments on several coast live oaks and redwood trees in Los Altos, CA. Three of the largest oaks, one of which appears to be an Indian-era tree, had bleeding stem cankers, probably Sudden Oak Death disease. In addition to fertilizing the soils with compost tea and alkaline-rich minerals, I performed several surgical procedures on the stem cankers. While I can’t say at this point that the oaks are free of disease, the photos do suggest that the oaks are on the mend. The two coast redwood trees in the last photo set also show a positive response to the treatments, although the larger redwood is starting to show signs of drought stress (e.g. thinning top). Otherwise, I’m pretty pleased with the results, as are the clients.

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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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