Sometimes little ones need to be coddled.
That is the case with a “nursery” of blue oaks deep in the heart of Rockville Trails Preserve. Twelve acorns and two saplings have been planted as a first step to restore an area that was logged decades ago. Historic aerial photos show a thriving oak savanna in 1937. Today, areas of the Preserve have only foot-tall stumps, evidence of a past clear-cut. They may have logged the trees for firewood, or because agricultural advisors thought removing the trees would benefit livestock. Whatever the reason, the result is that huge areas that were once wooded are now grasslands. Our goal is to plant and protect 60 young trees in one of these historically wooded areas. (See aerial photos below.)
Iconic California oaks
Your support enables us to replant these oaks and do all we can to help the babies grow.
If you have ever been on a docent-led hike at Rockville Trails Preserve, you may have noticed the blue oak savannas that sweep across the landscape, lending it an iconic California look. This species of oak grows only in California, and only in a narrow ring around the Central Valley.
For the past few decades, land managers and ecologists have been concerned because these slow-growing oaks are not regenerating adequately on their own. Researchers believe slow regeneration may be caused by changes in rainfall and summer temperatures, depleted groundwater, or cattle eating the tender leaves of saplings.
We know now that healthy grassland ecosystems include a variety of plants and trees, and we are doing everything we can to support blue oaks at Rockville Trails Preserve. At the clear-cut site, stewardship coordinator Ryan Lewis has protected the tender seedlings from cattle with moveable fencing. When the weather heats up and dries out, staff and volunteers will water, mulch, and apply shade cloths. With help from Citizen Scientists, Lewis is also caging a population of one-foot-tall, stunted and tenacious blue oaks throughout the property.
Although we plant oaks and other native plants and trees as part of restoration efforts on all of our properties, we focused on blue oaks at Rockville Trails Preserve to replace the trees that will be removed as we build the entrance and parking lot for the natural park.
None of our efforts would be possible without your support and shared passion and commitment to the land. We also thank Nomad Ecology, former staff member Sue Wickham, and our dedicated volunteers for helping us care for our blue oaks. If you are a tree-hugger at heart, or just want to help care for these special trees, please contact Ryan or Jasmine to sign up as a volunteer.
Photos courtesy of Nicole Braddock, Wikimedia Commons, and Solano Land Trust.