Anyone who has ever strolled through the hills or canyons of Southern California has undoubtable seen the magnificent Coast Live Oak, (Quercus agrifolia). Known for it’s wonderful, spreading arching limbs that resemble trees from Lord of the Rings, the Coast Live Oak, as well as the Canyon and Black Oak are under attack by the gold spotted oak borer beetle. This voracious insect which has already killed 20,000 oaks in our back country has now been spotted and is established in my own backyard at Marian Bear Memorial Park, located adjacent to route 52 in between Clairemont and University City.
This was a native canyon until highway 52 was constructed, essentially destroying a beautiful, nature canyon, with riparian wetlands and native upland habitats. Further degradation occurred with installation of sewer and storm drain mains through feeder canyons. However, when I need a quick walk in semi restored habitat, down I go with the dog and if I pretend to not hear the highway noise and focus just on the trees and shrubs, blue sky and clouds, it is not bad for a quick suburban retreat.
That is where the Coast Live Oak enters, these trees define Southern California for me. Go for a drive north of Santa Barbara, yes, those are Oaks dotting the green rolling hillsides. I cannot imagine not having these trees as part of our native environment, they are a one our finest native trees, slow to grow and reach full maturity. Go for a walk through Blue Sky Preserve in Poway and check out the recovery of the incredible oak trees that were torched in the not to long ago Cedar fire. Let’s hope the healthier oaks can withstand the beetle attacks and recover, no doubt the trees weakened by years of drought will be destroyed, leaving an incredible amount of dead wood to fuel fires in our wild land suburban interface. Watch out if you live at the top of the canyon!
To see these trees threatened and killed by this wood boring beetle is a real bummer for me, it just seems we continue to loose our most valuable resources, that being loss of back country, native, and mitigated biologic preserves and open spaces. Years ago, my favorite drive in San Diego County was going up through Descanso and winding our way up to either the Cuyamachas or Laguna, the best part of the drive being the Oaks and Sycamores arching across and over the highway. Unfortunately, the Cedar fire destroyed all the habitat, the last time I drove through being five years ago. I was so devastated looking at the torched trees, I have not been back since.
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