What is an RCA?

When I tell people I’m a consulting arborist they often ask what is that? Everyone is familiar with tree care companies, but not so much what the role of a consulting arborist. The common conception is when there is a tree problem, call up a tree contractor and have them do the work.

Yet, there are many tree problems that require expertise beyond a tree care company. When a tree has a change in condition or conflicts with infrastructure, a consulting arborist is required to assess the situation and make recommendations.

Consulting arborists have one or more certifications.  The primary designation is a certified arborist.  This designation is administered through the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).  The second and more difficult designation to obtain is that of Registered Consulting Arborist (RCA), administered through the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA). Consulting arborists with the RCA designation are the preeminent authorities on tree related matters.

To receive the RCA designation, an individual must already be a certified arborist.  Once they meet the experience and education requirements, an applicant must enroll in the Consulting Academy.  This rigorous training focuses on technical and report writing. Applicants who receive their RCA designation are trained to produce the highest quality written reports and work product, a terrific benefit for attorneys, insurers and professional consultants.

To learn more about registered consulting arborists, please click on the link below.

What is an RCA

“Arborgeddon” – PTCA Hosts Another Great Seminar and Field Day

Ficus tree roots engulf a curb, seen during Field day at Balboa Park

Ficus tree roots engulf a curb, seen during Field day at Balboa Park

The Professional Tree Care Association (PTCA) of San Diego hosted their annual seminar and field day, a two day event on Friday, August 22 and Saturday August 23, 2014. This was the 25th annual event and like many of the previous seminars, this was another informative, educational experience bringing together a wide diversity of speakers and audience!

The seminar was on Friday and this years theme centered on the ongoing California drought and ramifications to trees. There were a number of great speakers, starting with Mr. Ron Matranga who provided an overview about trees in times of drought, current and future water restrictions . Dr. Roger Kjelgren, Professor from Utah State University, provided a simplified method for landscape irrigation demand estimation. Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, the Urban Horticulture Extension Specialist from Washington State University discussed how to treat and avoid drought stress in landscape trees and Ms. JoEllen Jacoby, the Water Conservation Landscape Architect for the City of San Diego enlightened us about planning for current and future water restrictions (gulp, better get some rain this winter)!

Ms. Mary Matav, Agronomist from Agri-Serve presented information on how to combat pests and drought, followed by Dr. Tracy Ellis, Entomologist with the San Diego County Department of Agriculture, scaring all of us about tree insect interceptions and quarantines in San Diego County.

A great roster of speakers who delivered relevant information in a beautiful setting at Balboa Park in San Diego. On Saturday, the event transferred to the field, where information discussed at the seminar was applied and viewed in the field, an aspect of the field day I find very beneficial.

As usual, Dr. John Kabashima, the Environmental Horticulture Advisor with the UC Cooperative Extension, presented new, current information on the latest insect threat to our ornamental and agronomic trees in California, that being the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer, (PSHB). As many of us already know, this destructive ambrosia beetle is now active throughout the Southern California.

The PSHB is an invasive ambrosia beetle that carries the fungus Fusarium euwallaceae.  The female tunnels through the bark and lays galleries of pre-fertilized eggs and grows the fungus, which becomes food the newly hatched beetles.  The fungi infects the tree with a disease called Fusarium Dieback (FD), which interrupts the transport of water and nutrients through the vascular system of the tree.  In essence, this is a vascular clogging disease resulting in dieback and death of a large host of trees.   Unfortunately, there is no cure at the present time and beware of PSHB/FD look-alikes.  Here is very informative attachment Dr. Kabashima provided that really provides current information about this insect.  Handout is published from the University of California and the UC division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.   PSHB Information

Many thanks to all of the hardworking voluntary staff of the PTCA.  What a great local association, I am very proud to be a member of.  The PTCA is an active association promoting the best in tree care and tree knowledge.  An association composted of tree care companies, certified and consulting arborists and tree care  professionals, the PTCA continues to provide current and relevant topics for it’s membership and community at large.  Thanks again PTCA, looking forward to next years Seminar and Field Day!

PTCA Arbor Essence

No, this is not a perfume, rather it is the title for this years PTCA Seminar and Field Day.  PTCA, known as the Professional Tree Care Association of San Diego, is a premier industry association for professionals within the tree care industry.  The association contains a wide diversity of professionals, including representatives from outstanding tree care and tree service companies, ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) certified arborists, utility arborists, board certified master arborist, ASCA (American Association of Consulting Arborists) RSA’s (Registered Consulting Arborist), and industry professionals from utility companies, San Diego Zoo, golf courses, private industries, landscape contractors, landscape architects, educators and more.

A common thread shared by all of these different professionals and educators is our love of TREES and desire to further improve our understanding of the field of arboriculture!  It is a comforting feeling sitting is a room with hundreds of people sharing our knowledge and experiences with trees, learning new information, meeting old and making new friends.

Each year, the PTCA sponsors the annual Seminar and Field Day.  The first day (today) featured an incredible diversity of speakers and topics, there is something for everyone.  Here is a sampling of todays speakers:

Ms. Leah Rottke, professor at Cuyamaca College spoke about what to plant now for upcoming changes brought about by climate change in Southern California, Ms. Pat Nolan, County Pathologist for San Diego County of Department of Agriculture spoke about invasive diseases  moving into the Urban Forest.  In the morning session, Dr. Tom Scott, Ph.D., Department of Earth Sciences, UC Riverside discussed Management of Oak trees in San Diego County followed by an afternoon discussion about the Gold Spotted Oak Borer research (GSOB) and update.  Mr. Ron Matranga, Board Certified Master Arborist from Atlas Tree Service provided an overview of the ISA Traq (Tree Risk Assessment Qualified) program and Mr.Randall Stamen, Esq., from Riverside, California delivered a sobering lecture about Arboriculture and the law, including tree risk assessment and case studies.  Mr. Brian Bishop of Bishops Tree Service discussed improving the efficiency of tree crews and Dr. John Kabashima, Ph.D., UC County Extension, Orange County gave an entertaining lecture about effective sampling for diagnoses of insect and disease problems.  All of that in ONE day!

Really looking forward to tomorrow, the field day featuring workshops in tree risk assessment and BMP (best management practices), insects and diseases of shade tree diagnoses, pesticide applications for tree demonstrations, safety and tree identification, electrical safety, wood weight calculations, improving efficiency and maximizing safety.  There will be a tree climbing workshop provided in Spanish and English.

If you are a tree, landscape, horticulture, educator, consultant, or expert witness and have not yet attended a PTCA field day, you are missing out on a premier educational and entertaining event.  Members of the ISA, ASCA and urban forest councils, city and jurisdictional representatives, recreational and utility companies all come together in a common bond of learning, teaching and sharing, not to mention fantastic networking opportunities.  Hope to see you at the next PTCA Seminar and Field Day!

Learn more about the PTCA at http://www.ptcasandiego.org

Winter Sweetness!

Talk about a winter treat, try growing your own semi dwarf citrus tree(s). Last year, I planted a 15 gallon “Satsuma” seedless mandarin orange and one year later, we are feasting on an amazing harvest of sweet, juicy seedless mandarins. Try using mandarins in salads and dressings, not to mention fresh off the tree anytime!

I found the plant fairly easy to grow, full sun with normal fertilization and decent drainage. I kept the soil pH on the acidic side, the plant did great. I strongly recommend this particular variety because it stays relatively small, easy to maintain, and heavy fruit production.

Late fall / winter maturing citrus is such a special treat to have in Southern California. Just imagine all those mid western and eastern folk never having the opportunity to grow and have fresh citrus like we do!

With many varieties to choose from, you can select a tree that suits the size of your property. A nicely maintained citrus tree can be a very attractive small to mid size tree with the added fruit as a tremendous benefit.

Enjoy!

The Edible Landscape

In Southern California, we are blessed with a mild, Mediterranean climate that provides a 365-day year growing season. Although limited by some winter frosts, we are able to grow most landscape ornamentals as well as vegetables throughout the year.

We also face serious water supply challenges now and into the future. Water allotments from Northern California and the Colorado river are being reduced, municipalities have issued water alerts and restrictions on water use while implementing tiered water rates meant to punish abusive water consumers.

The days of cheap imported water that allowed Southern California to flourish as a green oasis in what normally would be a desert are ancient history.

If you are considering a new or renovating an existing landscape, water conservation and using appropriate plant materials should be a top priority. Studies show 50% of a residential water bill goes toward landscape irrigation. The single greatest water consumer is turf grass utilizing overhead spray irrigation.

Do you really need that turf grass lawn? Are you an empty nestor, no longer needing the big play area for the kids? Are you a new homeowner, trying to figure out the best design and functionality for your landscape? With todays water and maintenance costs, you must make an informed decision when tailoring an appropriate landscape for your property and your own personal, functional and aesthetic interests.

So, if you have already decided the typical water guzzling turf landscape is not for you, that leaves several types of water efficient landscapes to choose from. This blog will focus on using an organic fruit and vegetable garden as an edible, beautiful and functional landscape planting.

ARE YOU THE GARDENING TYPE?

If you:

  • Love to get your hands dirty
  • Have the time and commitment to garden regularly and as needed
  • Have a area that receives a minimum of six hours full sunlight daily
  • Enjoy eating fruits and vegetables
  • Have a desire to eat chemical free produce
  • Enjoy saving water cost, reducing your carbon footprint
  • Like to educate kids, neighbors and your community
  • Like to do the right thing

If the answer to the first four items above are yes, Congratulations, you are a likely candidate to start a fruit and vegetable garden!

The traditional concept of row gardening can be easily modified and adapted to a landscape design, satisfying both functional and aesthetic considerations. Using our residence as a example, we choose to convert our worn out, old front yard cactus garden into a fruit and vegetable garden.

Overgrown, non functional cactus garden

Since this is our front yard, I wanted to create a functional yet aesthetic fruit and vegetable garden that would enhance and enliven the site characteristics. Since the site is raised and already had a segmental block retaining wall, I designed a series of raised planters with pathways on each side of the planter for ease of cruising through the garden and access to work both sides of the planter beds.

Renovated landscape with vegetable garden raised planter beds

Raised planters with pathways for access also create interest

In a few months, we celebrate our one year garden anniversary. Take a look at some of the fruits and vegetables grown this past year.

French breakfast radishes, yum

Fresh, sweet organic carrots

Sweet millions tomatoes, the sweetest yet

Pomegranate trees make great medium size ornamental tree with beautiful fruit

Gotta have a lime tree for a mojito

A beautiful, edible front yard landscape

Ready to get started? Need help? I am a professional horticulturist, a C-27 landscape contractor and a certified arborist. My company, Rappoport Development Consulting Services LLC provides professional landscape, arboriculture, horticulture and organic gardening consulting services. Got a problem with the garden? Give me a call at 858-205-4748.

An Expert for Which, Defendant or Plaintiff Cases? Impartiality Is the Key

When I first decided to become a landscape, horticulture, arboriculture, site construction and development forensic expert witness, a business associate asked me which side I worked for, the defendant or plaintiff. Since I was new to the industry, I was somewhat taken aback at his remark. In my mind, I did not have a pre-determined preference on representing one side or the other.

With some time and experience under my belt, including working for both defendant and plaintiff cases, my conclusion is still the same, I do not have a preference because I use impartiality and standard of care to determine which client to represent. Yes, defendant cases typically are backed by insurance companies paying the bill, so from that perspective, the defendant side has deeper pockets, but that does not influence my decision to represent a defendant or plaintiff. While a plaintiff might be financially constricted, I have had no problems with getting paid for professional expert witness services.

I offer forensic expert witness consulting services for defendant or plaintiff clients and screen potential clients for satisfaction or failure to provide the proper standard of care. Here is the full article:

Defendant or Plaintiff Expert?

When I began offering landscape, horticulture, arboriculture and site development forensic expert witness consulting services throughout California, a business associate asked which “side” I worked for, the defendant or plaintiff. He did not want to refer the incorrect potential client to me. My answer to him then remains the same now, it does not matter whether a defendant or plaintiff client, I provide impartial expert opinions based on discovery, due diligence and the technical knowledge and experience I bring to the case.

Of course, impartial cuts both ways, and if discovery information leads me to an impartial opinion not in the best interest of my client, my professional integrity requires I inform the client why my opinion does NOT support their position. Fortunately, that difficult situation has not occurred; one of the reasons is careful screening of incoming requests by attorneys and paralegals.

It is challenging to maintain a neutral position during a telephone discussion with a potential client. Naturally, we all want to build our practice, so when a potential business contact occurs over the phone, careful listening, screening and asking pertinent questions is extremely important to ascertain whether the information provided by this potential client is a position I will arrive at independently on an impartial basis. Regardless of the information and position propounded by the attorney, maintaining my neutrality during a telephone conversation is essential to protect my integrity as an impartial expert who arrives at his opinion based on fact and discovery, not being bought or convinced by a client’s position.

Whether a defendant or plaintiff contact, the common thread is determination of satisfaction or failure to meet industry or professional standard of care. Ascertaining this information during initial discussions is an essential tool I use in screening potential clients. If a defendant call, the information provided during questioning should establish a reasonable degree of certainty the client satisfied the professional or industry standard of care, conversely a plaintiff contact will hopefully provide information detailing why the defendant failed to satisfy the standard of care and should be found negligent.

For this reason, I provide expert witness services for both defendant and plaintiff cases because determination of standard of care from a technical perspective must be an objective, impartial process. Perhaps I’m fortunate; the attorney’s I have worked with had a thorough, detailed understanding of their client’s position that simplified the screening process. They provided sufficient information and facts that instilled confidence I would be able to render an impartial expert opinion in their favor if discovery supported their information, which has consistently turned out to be case.

In addition to being retained as an expert for both plaintiff and defendant landscape construction defect cases, the same is true for horticulture and arboriculture cases involving plant and tree maintenance issues. Cases include plaintiff claims of incorrect plant selection, deficient landscape design, improper maintenance practices, tree risk and failure, any number of horticulture and arboriculture issues that have caused property damage, personal injury and even vehicular fatalities. The common thread in plant related cases is determination of standard of care which may include several parties such as the landscape architect and design, standard of care on the part of the construction and maintenance contractors, sometimes public agency interaction and their professional standard of care is examined, and often times all of the above are included as part of the expert opinion.

Due to the technical nature of the job, a landscape expert must be extremely adept in the many facets of construction, arboriculture, horticulture and other related fields. The expert must have the necessary skills and experience to efficiently distill all kinds of construction information to make an impartial standard of care determination. Of equal importance to data gathering, the expert must be able to communicate technical expertise in the simplest manner possible, while still producing convincing results.

As a landscape, horticulture, arboriculture, site development and construction expert, I occupy a relatively small but very important niche in the legal industry. Landscape, horticulture, arboriculture and site construction projects exist all around us, whether at a residential, commercial, industrial, recreational, private or public setting, accidents occur daily. Latent construction defects go undetected for years before manifesting into a serious situation. Trees drop limbs and fall over, damaging property and causing serious injury. Unlicensed or unknowledgeable contractors abound, many using illegal, outdated contracts, or worse, no written contract, both inexperienced or overly aggressive general contractors and subcontractors create project conflicts and many poorly informed property owners and managers suffer the consequences.

So much of my consulting work involves forensic determination of the cause of an accident or failure. In landscape construction, forensic analysis is extremely challenging due to the living and changing nature of the plant material, soils, segregating and determining design flaws versus construction contracting issues versus maintenance contracting practices, all are intertwined into a potentially difficult knot to unravel. Adding to the complexity of certain cases is the situation involving general and sub-contractor conflicts and determination of who did or did not satisfy standard of care. I discuss this situation in a previous article calledStandard of Care in the Landscape Industry

Therefore, using a technically experienced and professionally educated consultant with a thorough background in all landscape, horticulture and arboriculture disciplines can make all the difference, regardless if a defendant or plaintiff case.

Rappoport Development Consulting Services LLC is a full-service landscape, horticulture, arboriculture, and land development consulting firm, offering landscape expert witness services for attorneys and insurers. Jeremy Rappoport is a professional horticulturist, ISA certified arborist and tree risk assessor and a C-27 landscape contractor.