Peninsula pines to stop oak deaths

The disease called Sudden Oak Death is spreading quickly and killing millions of trees across 14 counties.

The disease has already dropped more than 1 million trees since 2000 and more than 1 million more are affected without a known cure, said the California Oak Mortality Task Force at the UC Berkeley. It affects five types of oak trees and can spread easily, task force spokesperson Katie Palmieri said.

Sudden Oak Death works in a cruel way: A plant pathogen called Phytophthora ramorum causesthe tree to “bleed” — or ooze out sap — and eventually the tree’s food and water supply is cut off, killing the tree. Its life ends with ugly discolorations and beetle attacks.

Cases have been found across the county. Mills Canyon in Burlingame has a “significant problem already” with Sudden Oak Death, Parks Superintendent Tim Richmond said.

But there is help. The Town of Hillsborough, the UC Berkeley task force and other organizations are hosting a workshop Thursday to help teach residents how to prevent trees from getting infected and how to treat oaks should they come down with the disease.

“The issue of Sudden Oak Death is happening throughout California, so we’re trying to be proactive and do some community outreach on the issue,” Hillsborough Director of Building and Planning Elizabeth Cullinan said.

Since there is no cure or treatment and disposing of trees is costly, the best way to avoid problems is by preventing the disease before it can start, Palmieri said.

Trees can catch Sudden Oak Death from 104 other types of plants that can carry a weaker, less-deadly form of the disease; warm and wet climates are the best conditions for Sudden Oak Death to spread and it is best to identify problems before the rainy season, Palmieri said. A treatment spray will be applied to the bark of oaks in Mills Canyon, for instance, in November, Richmond said.

“Sudden Oak Death is marching across San Mateo County at this time,” said Bobbi Benson, a member of the Friends of Mills Canyon group and the Burlingame Beautification Commission.

The dead trees reduce shelter and food for animals, and also create greater water runoff with the root system gone, Palmieri said.

The event is Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Hillsborough Town Hall on 1600 Floribunda Ave.

Tips to avoid Sudden Oak Death

» Whenpurchasing one of the 104 plants that carry the disease from a nursery, keep it isolated for eight months before planting.

» Keep the plants away from oaks.

» When visiting an area with Sudden Oak Death, clean shoes, tires, pets’ paws, etc., before returning home.

» Do not bring firewood home after camping.

» If your tree comes down with Sudden Oak Death, cut it down immediately so it does not spread. You can use it for firewood as long as you do not bring it off site.

» Do trimming and other work during drier months.

» Laboratory testing is necessary before diagnosing your tree with the disease.

– Source: UC Berkeley

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