I few months ago, I posted about a mature Coastal Live Oak that was growing smack in the middle of what will be our house at Two Terrier Vineyards. We needed to get the grading done and it quickly became clear there was no way to save it. We even investigated the hippie route of trying to see if we could design the house around it. It just wasn’t going to work.

So we had it moved down the hill to the barn. Louise Leff, who is helping with our planting, even sited the tree in the exact orientation toward the sun and the prevailing winds that it enjoyed before. Then we hoped for the best with no thought that the best wouldn’t be the logical outcome.

Here’s the tree just days after we moved it back in early April.

Within a month, things started looking dire. The tree’s leaves turned brown, the sap began to weep from the trunk and a weird army of hornets started to attack it.

Then just as quickly, the “wounds” seemed to heal. The wasps left. And, as of Sunday, the tree was really sprouting out new growth (see top picture.)

By June, the tree was completely brown and all the leaves looked dead.

Then today, we got an email from Louise who had brought an arborist out to examine the tree. He says it has Live Oak Bark Beetle also known as Pseudopityophthorus pubipennis. It’s a native beetle that lives in creek areas and quickly finds any Oak trees that are in distress. The arborist said it is extremely common in transplanted Oaks. He’s even seen it on trees that have been raised in nurseries and planted from large containers. What’s scaring me is its relation to the dreaded Sudden Oak Death syndrome that has been killing off California’s oaks. From what I’ve been able to understand, the Oak Bark Beetle isn’t the cause, but it swoops in when an oak is weakened by the disease.

Here are the wasps attacking the tree earlier in the year. But they disappeared and we thought the tree was in the clear.

The verdict: there is no chance the tree will survive. We have the choice of watching it die, or removing it. Couple that with the Alder trees that were planted down by the pond. They have Flat Headed Borers, which are also common predatory pests when a tree is drought stressed.
The cure for these beetles is a very toxic spray. Which, of course, we aren’t going to do since we are trying to be completely organic at Two Terrier Vineyards.

It feels like a real setback when we’ve tried so hard to plant only drought-tolerant natives in appropriate places and treat them organically. I guess even when you have the best of intentions, it’s tough fooling with Mother Nature.