Grandmother oak

5 03 2019

A few years ago I encountered an ancient coast live oak that was so magnificent, it took my breath away. At first sight the oak was barely noticeable, hidden behind a wall of young Douglas fir and bay laurel trees. But after slipping past the young trees Grandmother oak appeared. Her trunk was massive, at least 20 feet in girth, and was clearly pollarded by the native people. I estimated her age to be about 500 years, possibly older.




Grandmother oak has spent most of her life under the care of native people, who employed fire to manage the oak woodlands and other ecosystems. They would burn frequently enough to keep fuel loads down, so that the fires stayed on the ground and did not damage the canopies. These fires kept young trees, potential competitors for light and other resources, from encroaching on the oaks. They pollarded the oaks, a common practice of repeatedly cutting the lead stem so as to encourage multiple large spreading branches. This, as any orchard farmer knows, is the most efficient shape for maximizing fruit or nut production. In this case, the native people were managing for efficiency in the production and gathering of acorns.

After the California native people were forced from the land, ranchers followed in many places, such as here where Grandmother oak resides. For nearly a century this land was heavily grazed by cattle and horses, which, like fire, kept the young trees from encroaching.

The land was eventually sold about 30 years ago and stopped being a working ranch. Without any fire or grazing disturbance, dozens of young fir and bay trees quickly started growing around and under the oak. By the time I arrived in 2017 many of the fir were taller than Grandmother oak and were shading out the edges of her canopy. With the added competition for light, water, and nutrients, Grandmother oak was clearly beginning to suffer. Thus, the owner’s called on me for help.

I proposed trying fire mimicry, and they agreed. In early March of 2017 I, and my dedicated crew, began treating Grandmother oak, first clearing away the encroaching fir and bay trees, pruning the dead branches, and removing the mosses and lichens from the trunk. We then fertilized the soils beneath the canopy with compost tea, followed by alkaline-rich minerals, and applied a limewash (a kind of poultice) to the trunk.

The results after just two years of treatments are exciting. as the photos below show Grandmother oak is clearly recovering. If all goes well, she may live another 500 years!

Slide1 Read the rest of this entry »


Update on stem canker surgical procedures

26 02 2019

Several year ago I began treating a coast live oak in Big Sur, CA with fire mimicry, which included surgical procedures on two stem cankers, presumably Sudden Oak Death infections. A few days ago I checked on the progress of this tree. Below are photos showing that the surgical wounds have healed nicely and there is no sign of further infection.


I also reported, last year, on the methods involved in the surgical procedure for stem canker infections like Sudden Oak Death. Below are photos showing two canker surgeries on the same oak. Close examination of the surgical wounds after one year show no sign of lingering infection (though this is not easily visible in the photos).




Fire mimicry results after 5 and 12 years of treatments in Big Sur, CA

22 02 2019


Results after 5 and 12 years of fire mimicry treatments here in Big Sur, California.



Slide7 Read the rest of this entry »

Big Sur oaks respond quickly to fire mimicry

26 01 2019


Last year I began treating a grove of sick coast live oaks with fire mimicry protocols here in Big Sur. As you can see many of the oaks are making a dramatic recovery in just one year. This past year has seen below normal precipitation for this area, so this response is not weather related. Perhaps it’s time to start tending more oaks, again. Enjoy!


slide18 Read the rest of this entry »

Coast live oaks in Monterey, CA thriving after fire mimicry treatments

2 12 2018


Today I inspected several sick coast live oaks in Monterey, CA that were treated with fire mimicry one year ago. I’m happy to report that, despite the very dry summer and other factors related to climate change, these sick live oaks are showing clear signs of recover after just one year. Enjoy . . .


Slide3 Read the rest of this entry »

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

27 11 2018


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.




Slide4 Read the rest of this entry »

A coast live oak and a bigleaf maple . . .

29 10 2018


The coast live oak above and the bigleaf maple below were treated with fire mimicry last year. I checked on their status recently. Here are the results. Nice to see noticeable improvement in both trees in just a single year!