Thursday, June 5, 2008

Coast Live Oaks


A recent visitor to my blog is Dan, a tree enthusiast who blogs at http://www.evergreenspecies.com . And though he commented on my post about the Santa Monica Treesavers - a group vying to save some of the most undeserving of threatened trees - I realized that I have some trees around me that he would probably like a whole lot.

I happen to live in the midst of a mature grove of California Coast Live Oaks. These magnificent trees arch over our property, and lend a majesty to our home.

There are some half a dozen trees on our lot, and at least 4 of them are huge, venerable, and magnificent specimens.

Los Angeles County has recognized the value of our native oak trees by creating an ordinance to help preserve and protect oaks by regulating how property owners can cut or prune oaks - permits are required. The ordinance even mentions the danger posed to older oaks by encroaching on their root zone and the area beneath their wide canopies.

Older oak trees that sprouted and grew in the wild, and thrived in California's wet winter/dry summer climate are particularly vulnerable to human real estate development. A mature tree may suffer from rot if subjected to sprinklers that water the lawns and gardens of homes built nearby.

Our home was built in the early 1960's, and the original homeowner - who sold us the house in 1997 - left the part of our yard around the trees natural and unwatered.

When we did some landscaping a couple years ago, we laid a stone path through our front yard and planted native woodland plants like clary sage, Western columbine, and Douglas iris under our oaks - all plants that, once established, don't need watering. A few non-native, yet drought-tolerant plants like acanthus add a little accent. All the plants, and the trees seem to be thriving.

Oak trees can inspire. A good-sized Coast Live Oak tree can be hundreds of years old - our largest trees with their massive trunks must be at least two hundred years old. Their branches reach out and soar over the yard, over the roof of our house. They are prodigious producers of acorns - at the right season, their branches are teeming with raucous acorn woodpeckers.

Even people who live in Topanga are still impressed by our native oaks. Our local plumber has lived here a long time, but I remember very well the first time I called him to come fix a leaky faucet. As his truck pulled into our driveway I walked down to meet him. I was a little anxious to get the problem solved, and worried about getting to work, and so I started to talk about the leak, until I noticed his eyes go unfocused, wander up to the branches of the oak beside his truck.

"Wow." He said. "That's some great tree."
You gotta admire a plumber whose priorities are right.

4 comments:

Ginaagain said...

They are beautiful. I love the pathway with native plants too.

Jason said...

There are few things as gratifying as staring at an old oak tree.

SUEB0B said...

One of my proudest accomplishments is, with about 100 friends, getting the power company to agree not to cut a 12-mile swath of oak trees down under their power lines because they were a "fire hazard."

Dan said...

You have some great Oak trees! Thanks for visiting my blog.