Mountain saplings are a foot high and still growing

Mountain saplings are a foot high and still growing

10 August 2010

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USA — Thanks to the help of four Glendale volunteers, a group of seedlings in the Verdugo Mountains have a better chance to survive.

Part-time naturalist Dave Moreno and three Glendale residents carried five-gallon water bottles up and down a mountain for almost three hours Saturday morning as part of a program to maintain the trees that were planted after a fire in 2005.

The bimonthly tree maintenance, spearheaded by Moreno, has been underway for three years now. But the project, he says, is an extension of a more than 50-year-old experiment to introduce nonnative, but noninvasive, tree species to those mountains.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department and U.S. Forest Service teamed up in the late 1940s to plant what is still known today as the Experimental Forest — two groves of pine trees that took root and thrived despite being given only about 12 gallons of water when they were first planted, Moreno said.

One of the groves was torched five years ago by a fire that a cigarette butt reportedly caused.

Beginning in 2008, Moreno took groups of volunteers up to Fire Warden’s Grove to plant the saplings. The trees are now about a foot high.

After driving almost five miles to the top of the mountain, the volunteers set up a base camp and began watering the trees and weeding the surrounding area of plants hindering the survival of the saplings.

The saplings are surrounded by plastic mesh tubes that were placed as protection from grazing deer. The young trees, which need three seasons to become established, have a 50% mortality rate, Moreno said.

Moreno’s favorite sapling, which he has named Oliver, is near the parking area. It is often watered by hikers and bikers and is the healthiest tree in the group.

A new crop of saplings will be planted in late September, beginning another three-year cycle.

If all goes as planned, the mountainous lookout at the top of the Hostetter Fire Road — a popular hiking and mountain biking trail accessed from Tujunga — will eventually be a shade-filled destination for hikers that is heavily populated by mature pines.

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