Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Battle Lost?

While traveling on business in California over the last twenty years, and even more so since I moved to California just over 2 years ago, I have marveled at the way California oaks cling so tenaciously to life, even after losing huge chunks of crown to lightening, wind and decay.

One tree I have been watching for several years might have finally given up the ghost and gotten out of the proverbial canoe.  It's a valley/California white (Quercus lobata) in Shandon, CA.  I took this photo on August 31, 2012:

 (Click to enlarge)

This tree had looked exactly like this for several years.  It had obviously been through the wars; huge branches dropped, roots disturbed by road construction on one side, agriculture (hay field) on the other side.  But every year it leafed out, every year it kept fighting.

I took this one last week:

(Click to enlarge)

It's dropped all its leaves, much too early for autumn.  We're in the midst of a terrible drought in this area, and I'm afraid this oak might be a casualty - along with the vineyard industry and along with good relations between neighbors whose wells tap into the same shrinking aquifer.

I will keep watching this one for signs of life next spring.  Could be that in these dry conditions the leaves became more of an evaporative burden than a photosynthetic benefit, and it just "decided" -no, I'll get rid of the quotation marks and give the trees its cognitive due - it just decided to go dormant for the remainder of this season, conserve what little water remains within its reach, and try again next spring.

I'm hoping.  I'll let you know.

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