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

27 04 2020


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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Upcoming talk – “The cultural modification of trees and forests by California’s Native Peoples”

4 11 2017
CMT madrone

Culturally modified madrone tree in Big Sur, CA

In January 2018 I will be giving a talk “The cultural modification of trees and forests by California’s Native Peoples“, co-sponsored by the Sempervirens Fund and REI. Details of the talk are here. The talk is free but you will need to sign up through Eventbrite. Hope to see you there!


Forest restoration after the 2015 Valley Fire in Lake County, CA

5 03 2017

Forest devastation following the Valley Fire in Lake County. Photo taken in October 2015.

In 2015 a devastating wildfire consumed large areas of Lake County, California. Prior to the fires I had been working with some properties affected by the fires and soon afterwards I visited these areas, volunteering my time, to help guide the land managers on how best to manage their lands after the fires. Yesterday I heard back from one of my friends asking about specifics in restoring their forests. My response seems appropriate for a wider audience, so I am posting it here as general informati0n for those who have been affected by wildfires, as well as those who have not . . . Read the rest of this entry »

Variable one-year responses of birch, apple, and pine trees to fire mimicry

28 07 2016


Shown here are several birch, apple, and pine trees that were treated last year with fire mimicry. Telling from the photos it appears that the birch trees have response moderately, and the apple trees have responded significantly! The pine trees have yet to show much response. This seems to be typical of pines, which can take several years before showing visible responses (see  here and here).


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Pine, oak, and ironwood trees in Big Sur responding nicely after a decade of fire mimicry

20 07 2016

What is fire mimicry?

pine B



Ponderosa pines responding to fire mimicry

10 04 2016

There is a small grove of ponderosa pines up in Sonoma county being tended with fire mimicry techniques. I’ve been tracking their progress for 6 years and, while slow to respond initially, they are now showing noticeable improvement in canopy density. All the pines below have been treated EXCEPT for the last pine.


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California oak, pine, and toyon trees responding to fire mimicry

4 05 2015


Here are some assorted results on oaks, pines, and one toyon tree that I collected over the past two weeks. All have been treated with fire mimicry. As you can see some trees are responding better than others. Some of the trees here are showing only a slight improvement in canopy size and density. But results are results, so here they are. Fortunately, I found no infections of sudden oak death disease in any of the oaks here.

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Reflections on “Tending the Wild” workshop at OAEC

8 07 2013
Acorn. Photo by Kat Steele.

Acorn. Photo by Kat Steele.

When people don’t use plants they get scarce. You must use them so they come up again. All plants are like that. If they’re not gathered from, or talked to, or cared about, they’ll die.

– Mabel McKay, Pomo Elder, quoted from News From Native California

Last week I attended a remarkable 3-day workshop at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) called “Tending the Wild”. It was organized by my friend and colleague Lindsay Dailey, who is the Associate Director of the Wildlands Program at OAEC. For the past few years Lindsay has been training and working with me in the use of fire mimicry techniques in oak woodland restoration. I have found her to be a serious student and practitioner of traditional ecological approaches in land care.

The workshop drew together an amazing group of teachers and elders speaking on the topic of wildland tending by the Californian native people. The first day was led by M. Kat Anderson, PhD, author of the book “Tending the Wild“. Her thesis is that the richness and abundance of the historical ecosystems in California were largely the result of thousands of years of tending by the native people, primarily through the wise use of fire in burning the land to improve soil fertility and promote plant production/regeneration. In answer to the question: “Why are plants and animals disappearing?”, her response is: “Because we no longer have a relationship with them.” Read the rest of this entry »

Fire mimicry improving health of oaks, pines, and toyons

23 06 2013


For thousands of years the native people of California used fire as a tool to manage the lands and maintain healthy trees. Now-a-days, faced with the fact that we can no longer set fire to the land because of heavy fuel buildup from years of fire suppression, we must use alternatives, such as fire mimicry methods, in our work to keep California’s trees healthy.  Today I’m posting some recent results of fire mimicry treatments in restoring oak, pine, and toyon health.


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Sick pines respond to fire mimicry

21 04 2013


While the focus of work here at Sudden Oak Life is on oak health, there are lots of other kinds of trees that respond to fire mimicry treatments. Today I would like to share with you the results of some work being done on several ponderosa pine trees. These photo sets show how the pines have responded after three years of treatments. Note that the last photo set is of an adjacent UNTREATED pine.


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