Fire mimicry results after 7 years in Hillsborough, CA

17 04 2019


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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Fire mimicry results on Marin County oaks

4 04 2019



This past week I checked on several coast live oaks in Marin County that I’ve been treating for the past 1 to 7 years using fire mimicry techniques. The photos above are of an oak that I’ve treated for the past 7 years. The next two photos are of an oak I’ve treated for the past 5 years. The remainder of the photos are results of oaks I treated last year. I trust you can see the benefits of using fire mimicry in aiding the health of oaks.

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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!

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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.



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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!


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Video – “Living with Fire: Fire Ecology of the Central Coast” Dec. 6, 2018, Santa Cruz Public Library

20 12 2018

Big Sur 2008 fire

“Living with Fire: Fire Ecology of the Central Coast” – a talk by Lee Klinger