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International Year of Forests

(January 1st, 2011 - December 31st, 2013)

G. Donald Bain

California Fan Palms

G. Donald Bain

Doomed Oak Forests

Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, Richmond, California, USA

February 27, 2012 2 pm

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© 2012 G. Donald Bain, All Rights Reserved.

Oak trees are a significant element in the California landscape. In Spanish/Mexican days the tall deciduous ones that grow in the open were "robles" and the shorter wider live oaks were "encinos". There are towns with these names - Paso Robles and Encino, and countless other place names. There are also towns named Oakland, Oakdale, Oakhurst and other English language variations.

The live oaks of the coastal woodlands are particular favorites of mine. In the Berkeley Hills they form a dense forest along with bay-laurel and madrone. The oaks stand out because of their spreading heavy limbs and sometimes great age. There are many fine specimens in the canyon below where I live.

But the mighty oak is in trouble, some species may be facing near extinction. Phytophthora ramorum, a plant pathogen in the soil, produces the disease know as SODS, for Sudden Oak Death Syndrome. This was first noticed in 1995 and has now spread through the coastal counties of northern California. It has also been detected in Oregon and Europe.

SODS does not have the same effect on all species, the bays and madrones may be attacked and weakened, but not die. But tanoak (Lithocarpus densiflorus) and now California live oak (Quercus agrifolia) have suffered almost 100% mortality in certain areas.

From my window I can see recently dead trees, closer every year. It makes me very sad to think that the beautiful trees I have walked under for so many years are probably all going to die in the next decade. Perhaps even worse than the loss of these forest giants is the possibility that trees that I personally planted over the last quarter century will die also.
Photographed with an Olympus E-P2 Micro-4/3's digital camera with a 7.5mm Rokinon fisheye lens, on a hiking staff (monopod). Stitched with PTGui Pro 9.0 on a Macintosh Intel Core 2 Duo iMac, retouched with Photoshop CS3.

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