Grandmother oak, year 3

9 03 2020


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!



Diseased oaks in Los Altos, CA respond to fire mimicry

7 03 2020


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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Wind-damaged oaks recover with the help of fire mimicry

2 03 2020


In late February of 2019 are large wind storm hit Big Sur and damaged many trees. Here I present photos of several coast live oak trees treated with fire mimicry that were affected by the wind event. As you can see, the oaks have recovered nicely.


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2nd update on surgical procedure for Sudden Oak Death

23 02 2020

surgery-prep copy

Two years ago I came across a coast live oak in Big Sur with two stem canker infections, probably Sudden Oak Death. The above photo shows one of the infections prior to treatment. In the original post two years ago “Surgical procedure for Sudden Oak Death” I showed the suite of steps involved in removing, cauterizing, and poulticing the stem canker infection. This oak has also received fire mimicry treatments, which involve moss and lichen removal, along with applications of compost tea, soil minerals, and limewash. Below are the results after two years. While the wound it darkened due to the cauterization, it is clear to me that upon careful inspection both wounds are showing rapid healing and no sign of infection remains. The final photo set shows that the canopy of the oak is denser and lusher than prior to treatment.

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Coast live oaks in Novato, CA respond to fire mimicry

19 02 2020


Last year I began fire mimicry treatments on three coast live oaks in Novato, CA. The first oak, shown in the images above and below (Case Nos. 20190220.1 & 20190220.1b), is an ancient Miwok-era oak with an estimated age of more than 300 years. It was in fairly good health when I treated it and is now showing an even denser canopy than before. Also, note that the last photo set in this series shows two oaks, one treated and the other untreated. The untreated oak is showing some increased browning of the canopy, while the treated oak is showing a clear increase in canopy density.


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Ailing oaks in Big Sur respond to fire mimicry

5 02 2020


Two years ago I began fire mimicry treatments on a grove of sick coast live oaks in Big Sur, CA. Most of the oaks have responded well, including several that underwent surgical removal of bleeding stem cankers (probably Sudden Oak Death). Here are the before-and-after photos of the treated oaks. Note the photos are the same date, time of day, and light conditions as original photos.

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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 . . .


Hearst Castle oak – 2010


Fairfax oak – 2011

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