This Valley Oak tree at the Bridgeport Marketplace was a least 150 years old when it collapsed last April . Put in the context of U.S. history, it was ancient - a mere sapling when Lincoln was president. But put in the context of its own species, with a lifespan of about 300-400 years - it was a middle-aged tree.
Photo courtesy: James Farley
As you can see from this recent photograph, it’s not dead yet. At least one of it’s branches is still alive and growing.
Which raises the question: How do oak trees regenerate?
We know from observing the aftermath of a wildfire that oak regrowth can and does occur. According to David Carle in “Introduction to Fire in California”, “Many oaks respond to burning by sprouting from their bases, but also from the branches of the scorched tree.”
Here’s an example of branch sprouting, that occurred in Towsley Canyon after the Simi fire of October, 2003:
But, if you take a closer look at the photos of the Bridgeport Oak tree, you’ll notice that the base sprounting began BEFORE the collapse, not after. Why? Did the tree somehow sense that something was wrong?
According to this Michigan State University website , “Often times, sprouts and suckers will not grow until the parent tree dies or becomes very sick.” And this tree was sick - in 2005, an arborist gave it a D grade,  “which meant it was not likely to survive.”
Taking a closer look at the trunk gives us a hint as to why. The interior of the tree trunk was hollow. According to arborist  Wayne Cahilly, “Decay or hollows near the base of the tree are often associated with decay in the roots as well...Hollows associated with root problems often occur after root damage or damage to the base of the tree. Root damage may, in turn, affect the vigor of the tree.”
I’m not an arborist, so I hesitate to give a prognosis. But I wonder if the remaining trunk will be strong enough to support this sprout.
It may be too early to write the ending to this oak tale. Perhaps we need to give the tree a bit more time, to see if any root sprouts appear next year.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org  for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, October 2, 9, 16, 23 & 30.
Saturday mornings, October 12 & 26.
Saturday, October 19, 8 - 10 AM. Fall's Feathered Friends
Summer has officially ended and as the seasons change, discover how birds adapt to the weather in our local mountains. Beginners are welcome on this easy walk. Binoculars optional. Meet at TowsleyCanyon's front parking lot. 2 hours. Click here  for trail map and directions.
2014 PlaceritaCanyon Wild Flower Calendar. Looking for a unique and local gift? For $10, the Docents and Volunteers at PlaceritaCanyonNatureCenter are offering a calendar filled with original photos of local wild flowers. Best of all, your purchase will help support their fine work at the PlaceritaCanyonNatureCenter. They are available at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center Gift Shop.
New trail maps available. If you’d like to explore a bit on your own, the City of Santa Clarita has a website with trail maps  of our local open spaces.
There’s also a new website for bicycle riders .
Ask Dr. Norm : Do you have questions about the flora, fauna, animals, rocks, etc. in our Santa Clarita Valley? Here’s a place for you to ask your questions. Dr. Norman Herr, Ph.D., is a professor of science and computer education at CaliforniaStateUniversity, Northridge.
Tell Us About Your Hike : Here’s a new website where you can post pictures, provide feedback and make suggestions about the City of Santa Clarita’s trails and open spaces.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The SCV Outdoor Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
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