Many of California’s oak trees – and their unmistakable imprint
on the state’s landscape – face possible annihilation in an
anticipated scourge of Sudden Oak Death (SOD). In mid-May, the
United States Forest Service underwent its annual aerial monitoring
of SOD in Southern California and discovered approximately 150
patches of dead oak trees, according to Lisa Bell of the SOD
monitoring program. Though the forest service is still awaiting
test results to determine the definitive cause of these deaths,
SOD – which is caused by a water mold – is most likely the culprit,
particularly given this year’s late rain and warm temperatures. The
disease was first discovered in California in 1995, when a large
number of oaks began dying with a terrifying and mystifying fervor.
After six years of monitoring the disease, the forest service has
yet to find a cure. The best they can do is remove the infected
plants and experiment with slashing and burning in hopes of slowing
its proliferation. The disease has been reported as far south as
five miles from San Luis Obispo and is inching ever closer to Santa


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