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Oakland’s Diminishing Canopy

Oakland’s trees are the oldest element in the gardens, and they are our most visible.
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The attachment people feel to them was never as apparent as after the tornado in March 2008. We lost over 110 mature trees in those few minutes. The outpouring of concern and support from individuals, garden clubs and members of the horticultural community was amazing, and this support allowed us to replant over 100 young trees of diverse varieties the following year. These youngsters are growing into lovely specimens that will grace the grounds for many years to come.
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We tend to think of the tornado as the cause of our diminishing canopy, however it is actually only a small part of the story. We have been losing our trees for many years. A survey was done of our mature trees in October of 1982 and 318 mature trees were identified, representing 28 species. A second survey was done in 1998 in which 68, or 21%, of those trees were gone, leaving 250. Our most recent survey was done in 2010. It identified approximately 153 mature trees remaining. These numbers are not exact as trees were growing during these periods and different criteria may have been used, however it shows a steady pattern of significant canopy loss over the years.
It is the Foundation’s goal to stabilize the remaining trees and to provide the needed support to protect this part of Oakland’s character. We have undertaken a plan to provide appropriate care to each of our mature trees, and to continue the care on a regular schedule. Our trees live in a very challenging environment and face many challenges, including air pollution and depleted and compacted soil conditions.
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The care we propose has been determined after a careful examination of each tree. All will receive organic soil therapy to improve the soil fertility and to break up the compaction. Most trees also have dead branches that will be removed. These pose serious risks to our markers and visitors. Additionally certain trees will also be pruned to remove branches that are too close to obelisks and tall statuary. Other types of care, such as cabling, will be provided as needed.
It isn’t reasonable to expect that we will not lose any more trees, especially since many of our water oaks are already beyond their natural life expectancy, however this care should make all the trees healthier, prolonging their lives and making them less likely to cause harm.
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This work has begun and, thanks to a very generous donation, more progress is planned for early next year. We will proceed as funding is available and we hope to have much accomplished in 2014. If you would like to contribute to the effort, please send a donation to Historic Oakland Foundation, and indicate that it is for ‘tree care’. Your support would be appreciated today and for many years to come.

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