Friday, November 30, 2007

Torrey pine trees planted at Botanic Garden in Carpinteria


Atop a steep, 88 acre parcel of plush Carpinteria land, 460 rare Torrey pine trees were planted yesterday by students from Laguna Blanca School, local politicians and employees of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.
The mass tree planting was part celebration of Laguna Blanca’s 75th anniversary and part preservation effort for the scarce Torrey pine, which Botanic Garden officials said exist predominately on Santa Rosa Island and in the Torrey Pine Reserve near San Diego.

“They’re basically the rarest pine species in California,” said Andrew Wyatt, director of horticulture for the Botanic Garden. “I think it’s a really worthwhile project.”
Wyatt said the 460 trees, which were planted over a two-acre area of the Botanic Garden’s Toro Canyon Hay Hill site, will be closely monitored over the years to see which subspecies thrives.
The 460 trees consist of the two main species, island and mainland, and a hybrid of the two.
Wyatt said the close observation of the trees, which tend to have little genetic diversity – a condition that could render the Torrey pine vulnerable to extinction if a devastating bug attacked the trees – will allow researchers to try and find ways to preserve the species.
He said the site itself, which showcases sweeping views of the coastline and affords a foggy, cool climate, should provide favorable conditions for the tree to thrive.
While Wyatt and other Botanic Garden officials will be keeping a close eye on the trees, Laguna Blanca science students ranging from sixth graders to seniors in high school will also play a role.
Staci Richard, chair of the school’s science department, said the younger students will measure the trees and monitor the trees’ cone production, while the older students will likely study the DNA of the trees and conduct other genetic experiments.
Richard said the trees will afford science students the opportunity to get involved with long-term educational projects, which are sometimes tough to come by.
“It really gives our students a hands on chance to experience what they’re learning,” she said.
And in the case of the Torrey pine, long-term means exactly that.
Wyatt said the trees don’t reach full maturity for 70 to 80 years and don’t begin to bear cones until 10 to 15 years after planting.
He said the difference between the two species is mostly size, with the mainland Torrey growing as high as 80-feet tall and the island reaching about 70-feet.
The partnership between Laguna Blanca and the Botanic Garden, which acquired the Hay Hill site two years ago from an anonymous donor, transpired when Wendy van Diver, a coordinator for the school’s 75h anniversary, began looking for a meaningful way for students to mark the milestone.
She said she the idea of planting trees arose and it didn’t take long before she was put in touch with Wyatt, who happened to be looking for a partner to help fund the Torrey project, which is formally known as “Torreys for Tomorrow.”
Assemblyman Pedro Nava was on hand and addressed the students, noting the importance of preserving the land.
“Who is going to protect this precious coastline for the next generation?” Nava asked. “I think we’re looking at them right now.”
Andrew Licata, a Laguna Blanca fourth grade student, said he felt good planting the trees, knowing that he may well be saving an endangered.
“Since they are endangered I feel kind of bad for the trees,” Licata said. “If we didn’t [plant them] they could just go extinct.”
Seventh graders Joey Eckert and Justin Palmer were busy planting one of the trees when Eckert exclaimed, “It’s always fun to get dirty.”
First District County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, whose district includes Carpinteria, didn’t feel the same as Eckert and hung up his shovel after planting one tree due to the swanky black suit he wore.
Eckert and Palmer said they look forward to returning to the site to monitor the trees’ progress, which is exactly the reason Wyatt said planting trees, endangered or not, is a rewarding experience.
“As a horticulturist, it’s one of the things you always remember is planting a tree and coming back in several years time and seeing how it’s done,” Wyatt said. “[But here] it’s not about the individual trees, but how the entire species has done.”

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