May 21, 2008

Never Do This To Your Tree

The interface between "developed" spaces and "protected" ones is an increasingly hot topic. Lots of properties around here abut open space harboring coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) trees; I recently came across one of these California natives living on county land just across someone's property line, and growing at such a tilt to push against the residential wall that post-dates it by probably 20 years.

Now, these trees are only slightly more precious than gold around here, and this tree in particular is under county care; so in such a case usually the wall would be sacrificed to the cause. However, in this case someone has decided to adjust the tree instead. But by cutting through the protective bark and into the cambium and even heartwood of the tree, they've severely interrupted the flow of water and nutrients from the roots up the trunk to the foliage. And this is major surgery: deep and rough cuts which are unlikely to heal well (if the tree can muster the energy to heal them at all before it dies).

I'm sure I gasped audibly when I saw this, and the homeowner was equally shocked to learn about it. No one seems to know who made the cut, or when, although it certainly looks fresh. Trees are remarkably resilient, with the ability to compartmentalize wounds and adapt to adversity. But with about one third of this tree's vascular system removed, I would guess it has a very, very poor prognosis indeed.

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