Our Magnificent Valley Oaks: Hubs of Their Habitats

Sunday May 01 2016   1:00 PM
Observatory Park  , Ukiah, CA  map

The enormous valley oak that spreads its arms over the north end of Ukiah’s Observatory Park is a Mendocino County treasure—a marvelous representative of a magnificent species. Taller and more stately than any other oaks in North America, valley oaks can live as long as 600 years and grow as tall as a 16-story building. Their trunks occasionally measure 7 feet in diameter, and they have the unusual ability to live on dry hillsides as well as flood plains.

Standing under Ukiah’s “Observatory Oak” on May 1, Arbor Day, Kate Marianchild will discuss the role “grandmother” valley oaks play in oak ecosystems, supplying nutrients and water to plants of all families and phyla­­ via networks of underground fungi, and providing food, housing, and foraging opportunities to myriad animal species. Listeners will learn about the quirks of acorn woodpecker clans, the wonders of oak galls, and the fascinating strategies that allow valley oaks to survive drought, flood, and defoliation. Kate will have a sock-shaped bushtit nest held together with spider silk and colorful oak galls that look like candy on display. She’ll also have copies of her book, Secrets of the Oak Woodlands: Plants and Animals among California’s Oaks for sale, as well as full-color laminated oak identification charts and close-focusing binoculars.

Free and open to the public; for more information visit http://www.katemarianchild.com/walks-talks-classes/.

Kate MarianchildWhen Kate Marianchild migrated to the oak woodlands of inland Mendocino County in 2001, she promptly fell in love with an ecosystem. After writing for Audubon and other nature-oriented nonprofits for several years, she began the research that led to the writing of this book. Marianchild studied Chinese language and literature at UC Berkeley and New Asia College in Hong Kong, graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Berkeley with a degree in comparative literature. Following years of grassroots political activism, she moved to Mendocino County in 1980 and supported herself as a carpenter while founding and running Rising Tide Sea Vegetables, a company that is still thriving today under new ownership. For the past thirteen years she has lived in a cozy twenty-five-foot-diameter yurt with no indoor plumbing except a sink and a two-gallon hot water heater. In addition to watching wildlife, leading nature walks, and giving slide presentations, Marianchild sings with two community choirs, kayaks, swims, and participates in the events of her beloved community. (Kate Marianchild was known as Kathy Roberts before she changed her name to honor her deceased mother.)