Save Our Oaks

August 15, 2012

As we at COW have been reporting for years, Sudden Oak Death (SOD) is a very real threat to our natural woodlands and heritage oaks. This is a serious problem which needs to concern all COWs. This years SOD results will be published on October 1st and we will bring them to you and will also let you know when the next cowmunity meeting will be.

We are very grateful to UC Berkeley’s Forest Pathology and Mycology Lab, under the direction of Dr. Matteo Garbelotto, which hosts ‘SOD Blitzes’ every year in the spring. These events mobilize neighbors as ‘citizen scientists’ to chart the extent and spread of SOD each year.

Dr. Garbelotto brings back his findings to local communities to explain what he found. Last year he held five roundtables in affected areas, including one in Portola Valley which was open to cowncerned members of our Town as well. We captured the whole event for you on MooTube and urge you to watch it.

More than 80 local residents attended Dr. Garbelotto’s presentation on the basics of the SOD pathogen, how the Blitzes work, the theory behind them, and why they have to be done every year. This year over 500 Bay Area residents gathered samples for the Blitz. This was a bad year for our oaks. The late wet weather coincided with just the sort of temperatures that the Phytophthora ramorum infection likes, as the spores need water to spread and mid April to June is when the pathogen is active.

The startlingly bad news is that last year out of 344 trees tested in the Woodside-Portola Valley area, 242, or 70.3%, tested positive for SOD! As Dr. Garboletto hastened to point out, that doesn’t mean that 70 percent of all oaks in Woodside are infected since volunteers take samples of suspect trees. However, compared to the 2010 figure of 11.8% suspect trees infected in Portola Valley and 28.6% in Woodside, the data points out how devastating last year was and what we may be seeing this year regarding this blight. You can view the data visually on maps here.

The time to protect our oak trees is now, as the inevitable spread of SOD in our Town appears to be a foregone conclusion. There is no cure for SOD, only preventive measures such as the removal of bay laurel trees and other carriers. Rather than wholesale removal of bay laurels, Dr. Garboletto advises a nuanced approach depending on how close the trees are to oaks and what the removal of bay laurels will do to your landscape. We urge you to watch the video, peruse the Lab’s website, and take action to protect your trees. You can attend Sudden Oak Death Treatment Workshops to learn more on how to help.

Saving our trees is everyone’s responsibility.

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