Encino Oak Tree
|Encino Oak Tree|
Encino Oak Tree stump
|Location||Louise Avenue, 210 feet south of Ventura Boulevard, Encino, Los Angeles, California|
|Governing body||City of Los Angeles|
|Designated||September 6, 1963|
The Encino Oak Tree, also known as the Lang Oak, was a 1,000-year-old California live oak tree, Quercus agrifolia, in the Encino section of Los Angeles, California. It was designated as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM #24) in 1963.
History of the oak
The Los Angeles Times once wrote of the Encino oak: "When the famed Lang oak tree of Encino was but a sapling, the Mayan Empire was crumbling and Vikings were sacking English sea towns." It was already 100 years old when Pope Urban II launched the first Crusade. And when the first Europeans passed through Encino in 1769 as part of the Portola Expedition, the tree was already more than 700 years old.
As Encino was developed into a residential community in the mid-20th century, the Encino oak became recognized as a landmark, known for its size and longevity. It was recognized as "the oldest known tree in the city of Los Angeles." A California live oak tree is considered to be old at 300 years, and arborists considered the Encino tree's longevity to be extraordinary. One arborist noted, "It's just like standing next to a dinosaur."
The majestic California live oaks were such an impressive presence in the pre-urban Encino that the community was named after the Spanish word for "oak." The Encino oak was the most magnificent of the community's oaks, so large that Louise Avenue was split to accommodate its enormous 150-foot (46 m) canopy, 8-foot (2.4 m) diameter, and 24-foot (7.3 m) circumference. It has been said that the Encino oak "creates a woodsy atmosphere more resembling a whole forest than just a single tree."
In 1958, the oak was threatened when a developer planned to bulldoze the tree to build a road. Local residents formed a group called Encino Save the Oaks and the developer eventually donated the tree to the city. It was declared a Historic-Cultural Monument in 1963. In the years following its designation as a monument, the tree was a tourist attraction.
Threatened by slime flux and other ailments
By the 1990s, the tree was in a weakened condition. Some attributed its condition to the Encino Reservoir, built in 1921, for cutting off the natural water flow to the tree. Others blamed it on air pollution from traffic on nearby Ventura Boulevard. It also suffered from oak-root fungus. In 1991, it was diagnosed with slime flux, a tree ailment caused by bacteria that generate fermentation inside the tree and send toxic sap oozing through the bark. Arborists reported that the tree desperately needed special care to save it. Arborists and city officials argued over the proper treatment for the ailing tree, with one arborist suggesting the city chisel small holes in the bark to release the toxic sap that was slowly killing the oak. Others suggested the drilling would put too much stress on the tree, which should be allowed to heal itself.
Efforts to save the ailing oak became a publicized cause. In 1996, the Times reported on the oak: "His skin is mottled, some of his limbs are held together with pins, and his great, shaggy head hangs from its own weight. Old Lang is in trouble." In 1997, the Encino oak was honored at an Arbor Day ceremony attended by Wirt Morton, the great-great-grandson of National Arbor Day founder J. Sterling Morton, who on seeing the giant oak said: "I've never seen anything as phenomenal as that."
Death in El Niño rains
On February 7, 1998, an El Niño storm "delivered the death blow, felling the ailing tree with storm winds." As news of the tree’s demise spread, onlookers gathered, some crying and taking branches as mementos. After decades of being threatened by development and pollution, one resident noted the irony that "now it goes because of nature." As souvenir-hunters sought to take pieces of the tree, police officers guarded it until its remains could be removed. One officer noted: "It got out of control. It's sad that we had to take two policemen off the street to watch a tree."
In the weeks following the tree's death, city officials debated what should be done with the tree's remains, leading the Times to ask: "How many bureaucrats, City Council aides, homeowners, urban planners and arborists does it take to decree the fate of a fallen king, the mighty oak of Ventura Boulevard?" Ultimately, the city opted to plant five new trees where the Encino oak had grown—three California sycamores and two coast live oaks. The city also unveiled an 8-by-6-foot (2.4 m × 1.8 m) oval slice of the tree in an April 1999 ribbon-cutting ceremony.
- Los Angeles Department of City Planning (September 7, 2007). Historic — Cultural Monuments (HCM) Listing: City Declared Monuments (PDF). City of Los Angeles. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
- Steve Padilla (1991-04-15). "Ancient Oak May Be Out on a Limb Nature: The 1,000-year-old Encino landmark is threatened by disease and drought. Experts differ over what to do". Los Angeles Times.
- Judson Grenier (Editor-in-chief) (1978). A Guide to Historic Places in Los Angeles County, p. 96. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co. ISBN 0-8403-7501-8.
- Rip Rense (1996-03-20). "L.A. Stories; An Elder Statesman Rooted in History". Angeles Times.
- Gloria Lopez (1985-10-20). "A Crook in the Road". Los Angeles Times.
- Sylvia L. Oliande (1997-03-08). "Encino; Lang Oak Honored on State Arbor Day". Los Angeles Times.
- Stacy Brown (1997-03-08). "Grand-old Tree: Lang Oak Praised on Arbor Day". Daily News (Los Angeles, CA).
- Agnes Digggs (1999-04-22). "Valley Roundup; Encino; Piece of Lang Oak Tree to Be Unveiled at Park". Los Angeles Times.
- "A Tree Dies, but Not Its Legacy". Los Angeles Times. 1998-02-10.
- Peter Hartlaub (1998-02-09). "Arboreal Landmark Succumbs to Rain: 1,000-Year-Old Oak Collapses in Encino". Daily News (Los Angeles, CA).
- "Editorial: Goodbye to a Landmark". Daily News (Los Angeles, CA). 1998-02-10.
- Evelyn Larrubia (1998-02-09). "Storm's Oldest Casualty; History: Residents come to mourn as workers cut up 1,000-year-old Lang Oak, toppled in Saturday's rains. Encino landmark was declared a state monument in 1963". Los Angeles Times.
- Evelyn Larrubia (1998-02-09). "If a Tree Falls in the Valley, We All Hear It". Los Angeles Times.
- Eric Slater (1998-02-10). "After the Fall; Police Say Souvenir Seekers Are Barking Up Wrong Tree". Los Angeles Times.
- Eric Slater (1998-04-15). "Officials Trim Options to Recycle Fallen Oak; Landmark: Meetings continue on what to do with 1,000-year-old Encino tree's trunk. Carving it into a celebrity likeness gets the kibosh". Los Angeles Times.
- Eric Slater (1998-04-16). "Tribute to Fallen Oak Will Be a Chip Off the Old Block". Los Angeles Times.
- Jesse Hiestand (1998-04-18). "Encino Planting Future Symbols: Community Picks 5-Tree Tribute for Histori Lang Oak". Daily News (Los Angeles, CA).