City Council District 5
City Council District 5

Help track – and slow -- Sudden Oak Death, April 30-May 1

Sudden Oak Death, a fungus-like mold that is ravaging coastal California’s beautiful live oaks, is now established in regional parks from El Sobrante to Oakland. The disease is carried on many host plants, native and non-native. Its advance is fitful but inexorable, spurred by late-spring rains. The pathogen affects large oaks; most infected trees die quickly (hence the name). Massive infestations of beetles and fungi sometimes cause trees to snap off at the base even before the leaves turn brown.

Loss of our coastal oaks means much more than loss of beauty or property values.  Hundreds of native animal and plant species depend on oaks. Watershed and water cycling would change. Danger of fire and damage from falling limbs and trees would increase.

There is no cure, but some things can be done to slow the spread and protect high-value or high-risk trees -- for example in parks or near homes.  Most of these must be done before an area, or a tree, is infected.

Working with UC Berkeley’s Dr. Matteo Garbelotto, community organizations including Berkeley Partners for Parks, Friends of Five Creeks, and Garber Park Stewards are seeking volunteers for a “blitz” survey of infected host plants – mainly California bay laurels.

Volunteers can sign up at to:

1. Attend a free one-hour training and get survey materials, 1:30 PM Sat., April 30, on the UC Berkeley campus (easy access by BART and bus). Training also is available at 10 AM April 30 at the Orinda Community Center. Email Contact: Bill Hudson -

2.  Look for infected leaves at locations of their choice or suggested by organizers. Volunteers return suspect samples to an on-campus drop box by 5 PM Sunday, May 1.

Samples will be laboratory tested. Results will be posted on an online database and Google Earth. A community meeting will discuss results and what can be done.

For more information about the survey, or if your group is interested in surveying a specific park or neighborhood,  please contact or 510 848 8358. 

If the April 30-May 1 blitz doesn’t work for you, but you have an I- phone and want to help add to knowledge of this plague,  check out this  I-phone app from another UC Berkeley lab. If you are interested in protecting specific trees, check out the Garbelotto lab’s free treatment-training sessions 

For general information on sudden oak death, go to the California Oak Mortality Task Force web site.


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