Pair of sick trees is slated for removal
Root fungus and old age, not Sudden Oak Death, have compromised two oaks

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs


This ailing oak and its closest neighbor, which stand outside the Faculty Club, will be felled in the next two weeks, says Phil Cody, campus ground services manager.
Jeff Wason photo

06 March 2002 | Two oak trees near the Faculty Club, believed to be nearly 80 years old, will be cut down this month due to safety concerns.

One of the two coast live oak trees slated for removal is riddled with root fungus and is nearly dead, said Phil Cody, campus ground services manager. This tree is supporting a neighboring oak that is no longer upright. The two are tethered together by a cable.

“Both these trees must come down because of the hazard they present,” said Cody. “We want to prevent injury to pedestrians and to the Faculty Club building.”

Cody said coast live oak trees are particularly vulnerable to the Armillaria mellea fungus. Because it attacks tree roots, it is often not recognized until the disease has progressed above ground.

“We noticed a few years ago that the tree’s bark looked irregular,” said Cody. “Though diseased, we wanted to leave it as long as possible because it is an important aspect of the Faculty Club’s landscape.”

Cody and his crew kept an eye on the tree for several years — until time eventually ran out, he said. Only 20 percent of its cambium — the tissue through which food and water pass — remains intact. With its defense systems compromised by the fungus, other diseases have taken hold. With such severe damage, said Cody, the tree has no chance of recovery.
Armillaria mellea is common in the western United States, though prevention is difficult because the fungus is prevalent in the soil.

While the two trees may eventually be replaced, campus landscape architect Jim Horner is being cautious, given the recently discovery of Sudden Oak Death on campus.

“We don’t want to plant anything that might become a host,” he said. “We are still learning what species are affected by the Sudden Oak Death pathogen.”

By waiting for the results of new research on Sudden Oak Death, Horner believes he can make a more informed decision on what gets planted near the Faculty Club.

“Whatever we put there, we want make sure it’s something that will last for a long time,” he said.


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