#ReOak Wine Country Update

ReOak Hand ModelIn October, at least 31,000 acres of Oak forest and woodlands burned in the devastating wine country fires. These Oaks support hundreds of different species of wildlife and are critical to the health of local ecosystems. In the wake of the fires, CNPS called on volunteers to help “Re-Oak” the region. Since then, thousands of Californians have signed up to help gather acorns, which will be used to reintroduce Oak trees in the fire affected areas.

“The response has been incredible,” says CNPS Executive Director Dan Gluesenkamp.

So first, thank you to ALL who have helped in so many ways. To community members who have gathered acorns and mailed them to our offices; to the volunteers in Sacramento and Wine Country who have tirelessly processed the acorns, ensuring best practices for the restoration; and to our donors, who have made possible the needed staff  and materials to make this effort a success, we thank you!

What’s Been Happening

The CNPS state office at 2707 K Street in Sacramento has been the hub for receiving and processing acorns sent in by members and volunteers from around the state. Numerous volunteers from the CNPS Sacramento Valley Chapter have handled receiving,  sorting, and processing acorns that will be distributed to help with the Re-Oaking effort. All acorns from the fire-affected areas of Wine Country have been sent on to the CNPS volunteers in Sonoma county, led by restoration expert Betty Young.

Due to the amazing response from people sending in acorns, we are now looking for additional volunteers to help continue the sorting effort at Elderberry Farms Native Plant Nursery in Rancho Cordova, CA.

If you or someone you know is interested in helping out at this location, please email acorns@cnps.org for more information. You can also signup for updates on this project or learn more about the effort by visiting cnps.org/acorns.

Our deepest thanks and appreciation goes out to all of the community members, school groups, CNPS members and volunteers who took the time to collect, package, and send us specimens. Your contribution is key in helping restore oak woodlands in the fire affected areas of wine country. Please stay in touch for updates on this project and future endeavors. Together we can accomplish great things.

More Information:

CNPS #ReOak news release

Getting warm out there?

Arne Johanson

Arne Johanson, from the San Diego area, has been an active “weed-whacker” – last year he was one of the San Diego area “Cox Conserves Heroes finalists.”

When Arne Johanson retired from project managing large software installations, he had two goals: get away from the keyboard and be around kids. He has met both of those goals in the Greater Rancho Bernardo open spaces.

That one man could do so much: it is staggering! Arne Johanson is one of my heroes. For years he has been doing incredibly important work with very little fanfare. Arne is so modest, in fact, that few know of the significant contributions he is making to the health of our local ecology.

As he said recently, “ With very little money we are bringing back all kinds of wildlife. When the Gnatcatcher, Least Bell’s Vireos, and Harrier Hawks show up, then I know that the right things are being done.” I’ll write more about his projects in the future. For now, here are some of his thoughts on native plants and fire risk:

Fire prevention is the number one reason I give people for using native plants in open space. For a garden it can be similar. The advantage of some native plants is that they retain moisture. The state fire consortium at UC Riverside has shown that retained plant moisture is the best indicator of fire resistance in vegetation. There are caveats.

Dead or dormant vegetative matter poses fire risk and should be removed from within 100′ of structures in fire prone areas (say anywhere in the western US). Many non-native species appear to be safe but are anything but. Some examples:

Ice plant has succulent leaf structures. However, the green growth overrides dead material which acts as a fuse when ignited by embers.

  • Many other ground covers help spread fire, such as ivy or Myoporum.
  • Many palms are little more than torches in wildfire conditions (fire safer exceptions are the self shedding palms with smooth trunks like the King Palm).
  • Confers native or non-native are considered fire risks.
  • Blue Gum and Red Gum Eucalyptus are considered fire risks at all times.
  • Acacia pose a fire risk from dry leaves and dead twigs. The growth habit results in a fire ladder.
  • Any vegetation should be kept away from buildings.
  • All vegetation should be spaced in such a way that fire will not spread.

While some native species are relatively fire-safe, some should be avoided. Buckwheat and sage brush are examples of plants with small leaves that are easily ignited. Lemonade Berry and Sugar Bush are examples of particularly fire resistant plants with thick leathery leaves.