To replant the habitat of natural oaks in Sonoma County from thousands of acorns

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When Natalie Portis first arrived on her property in Sonoma almost 20 years ago, she was immediately enchanted by the lush natural landscape and the majestic oaks.

The wooded oasis of Portis was part of the thousands of acres of oak forests and landscapes that burned during the October 2017 sisters' fire, which claimed his home and about 700 trees on his 10-hectare property. Castle Road.

"It always seems surreal," said 59-year-old Portis. "It was devastating to go back and see the trees sung. I just remember being there and having felt the grief and the consequences of such a loss. "

She rebuilds her house and plans to move in this summer. It is a "painful" process, but last month she planted 21 acorn-harvested seedlings harvested by local volunteers in the weeks following the fires that ravaged Sonoma County two years ago.

"It was very playful and very kind and it made me smile a lot," she said of the planting of young oaks on the coast on her property with the help of members of the California Native Plant Society. "I feel like I'm going home."

The oaks have long defined the bucolic landscapes of Sonoma County and have played a vital role in the formation of its natural habitat. Recognizing the need to preserve and breed native species after fires, the California Native Plant Society and its local chapter Milo Baker, named in honor of famed botanist Santa Rosa, quickly launched efforts in 2017 to harvest acorns in areas close to burning areas in the county. and the surrounding communities.

"Oaks are really driving our ecosystem here in California for native plants," said Liv O'Keeffe, senior director of communication and engagement for the nonprofit environmental society. "A single oak can literally support hundreds of insects, pollinators, birds, creatures and other plant species. Having these oaks in place keeps an ecosystem intact. "

Thousands of acorns were harvested by naturalists and volunteers from Sonoma County, while thousands of others were sent to the Sacramento headquarters of the California Native Plant Society. The acorns were treated to kill the diseases, seized in a database to track their species and origin, and then transferred to nurseries in Santa Rosa and San Diego, where they have since grown in seedlings ready for planting. winter.

Plants are available from the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, which has collaborated with other local organizations to distribute about 700 oak shoots to the county's landowners, said Brent Reed, the foundation's environmental program manager.

The California Native Plant Society has also grown about 4,000 oak seedlings in Sonoma County and plans to move the seedlings from San Diego to Sonoma County in January or February, so that they can be picked up by those who have committed in advance for them, the assistant of the company. Seth Kauppinen, botanist of rare plants.

As Sonoma County homeowners begin the post-fire reconstruction process, many are looking to replace other tree species with oaks, said Wendy Trowbridge, director of scientific restoration and conservation programs. Although it takes them years to become mature trees, replanting is an important step, said Trowbridge, whose house Mark West burned.