Of the mighty oaks, an Engelmann
oak in Pasadena is the mightiest of them all.
So says the National Register of
Big Trees, which lists the ancient oak in front of a house
on East California Boulevard as the largest of its kind in
The 200-year-old specimen stands 78
feet tall and measures 143 inches around the trunk, making
it a regular stop for looky-loos.
"People drive by all the
time,' said Jackie Reaume, whose front yard is home to the
tree. "Some have asked me to save acorns for them.'
But oaks of its ilk are few and far
So the Arroyo Seco Foundation has
launched a campaign to save the Engelmann oaks, considered
superlative among oak species. It is one of the largest,
rarest and oldest of the oaks.
Through October, the foundation is
working to collect fallen acorns from beneath Engelmann oaks
across the San Gabriel Valley. The goal is to collect a
couple of thousand acorns to sprout seedlings for a new
generation of oaks, said Tim Brick, of the Arroyo Seco
"It's a really cool tree,'
Brick said. "We want to do what we can to give the tree
The oak is found only in Southern
California, surviving in the foothills from Los Angeles
County to Baja, California. The trees thrive in woodlands at
an elevation of 400 to 5,000 feet.
Once scattered throughout the
Valley, their ranks have thinned over the years, said Kathy
Musiel, botanist at the Huntington Library, Art Collections
and Botanical Gardens.
"They used to populate most of
the San Gabriel Valley, but disappeared as urbanism took
over. Few of them are left,' Musiel said. "Most of
their natural range was obliterated.'
But a few grand examples still
remain, such as a 400-year-old oak at Caltech, or the
stately tree in front of Christle Balvin's Pasadena house.
Her parents, she said, bought the
house because they loved the oak, a love they passed on to
their daughter. Balvin plans to donate its acorns to the
Arroyo Seco Foundation, to ensure new oaks will take the
place of those that fall to sprawl.
"I'm glad somebody is caring
about our jewels. What makes Pasadena special in part is its
trees,' Balvin said. "I have a bag of acorns ready to
drop in (Brick's) mailbox.'
While the city protects the oaks,
some can succumb to neglect, like the one in Macy's parking
lot on South Lake Avenue, said Jan Muntz, president of
Pasadena Beautiful. The asphalt is strangling its roots and
a truck recently sheared off one its branches.
Along with collecting acorns,
Pasadena Beautiful is working to save the tree, she said.
"Poor thing. It's in a very
hostile environment,' Muntz said. "It takes a long time
for them to develop. They are native trees, they were here
Once the Arroyo Seco Foundation
amasses enough acorns, volunteers will test which to keep by
dumping them in water the floaters go, the sinkers stay.
From there, they will store the acorns in refrigerators to
mimic the winter season, pot them in January and sprout the
seedlings for planting.
"We want to get the best
samples. It's all genetic,' Brick said.
Lisa Faught can be reached
at (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4496, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.