While weeding yesterday with Katherine Pakradouni, Project and Program Manager at the Los Angeles Parks Foundation and a native plant specialist, we asked her, “What one person could do if they wanted to help the planet? What would really make a difference?” Without skipping a beat, she said if you have space, plant an oak tree. If you don’t have a yard, help someone else or some organization, like the LA Parks Foundation, plant an oak tree.
Pakradouni had enlisted volunteers from the Hancock Park Garden Club to help her weed and clean up an area behind the Foundation’s Nursery House in Griffith Park. The space will soon be converted to a planting area and demonstration garden for native plants local to Griffith Park. Pakradouni will harvest seeds and propagate native plants and trees, including oaks, from Griffith Park just like the City did years ago. Believe it or not, at one time the City of Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department used to grow all the plants needed to landscape the City’s parks and streets at the Commonwealth Nursery, just a stone’s throw away from the Nursery House, formerly the caretaker’s cottage. Abandoned for a long time, the Parks Foundation has plans to help the city revitalize the nursery, and Pakradouni is developing the prototype of the program. But that’s a story for another day — soon, we hope.
But back to her advice about planting an oak tree.
“Oaks are the food source for over 200 species of butterfly and moth caterpillars, and caterpillars are the food source for baby birds almost exclusively, so if you don’t have a yard full of caterpillars, you’re not going to have a yard full of song birds either,” explained Pakradouni.
Oaks are also threatened. Even though they are a protected species, they are still quite easily cut down, which is why Pakradouni believes it’s extremely important to plant as many of these trees as possible.
According to Calscape.org, there are more than 50 species of oaks that are native to California. You can insert your address and learn which species is best for your neighborhood.
There’s so much information on the internet on the value of planting this keystone species, which has adapted to every region of the U.S. And even Google’s Earth Day Doodle recommends planting a tree or two or three or more!
So if you’ve got space, consider planting a tree. And if you don’t have a yard, consider helping the LA Parks Foundation, or another of your favorite non-profit organizations, plant trees in our local parks.