The spreading, 350-year-old, coast live oak that shadows the historic cottage and winery ruins at Jack London State Historic Park, has been granted a stay of execution and will not be cut down this year.
Following analysis of core samples taken from the tree in October, UC Berkeley arborists announced that the stately oak is not as ill as originally suspected.
According to an email from Cyndy Shafer, Natural Resource Program Manger with the Diablo Vista District of California State Parks, “The tree does have significant issues with decay. However, (the arborists) think we can retain the tree and monitor it, as long as we take steps to reduce risk. There is no way to know how quickly the decay agents present in the tree will progress.”
Shafer said one of the arborists “thinks we’ll need to remove it sometime in the next 10 years. It could be much sooner though. He has offered to have his lab re-sample in two years at no cost, and if something happens before then with the tree (limb failure, further decline in canopy), he will come and look at it sooner if we want.”
Meanwhile, wrote Shafer, steps will be taken to reduce risk from falling limbs. That will include prohibiting all parking or sitting under areas of the tree where limbs would be likely to fall, performing a crown reduction on one limb that could damage the cottage if it were to fall, and careful monitoring for further signs of decay.
Reports from three prior arborists concluded the tree is succumbing to rot, the natural end for a coast live oak of its size and age. Last December, a large branch snapped off and crashed to the ground, which could have been a fatal encounter for anyone close to the tree when it fell. More branches were removed to prevent any further incidents.
The Valley of the Moon Natural History Association, which manages Jack London State Historic Park, has hosted numerous events to honor the tree and its long history. Members of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria gave it a traditional Miwok blessing, while Valley youth collected acorns from around its trunk to carry on its lineage somewhere else.