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Majestic oak tree at Jack London's cottage to be felled due to fungus

  • The large, iconic oak tree looms over the London Cottage in Jack London State Park on Friday, April 19, 2013. The tree, which Jack London often sat under, will be felled later this year because it is diseased and in danger of falling over. ((Conner Jay/The Press Democrat))

Plans are under way to fell a majestic oak tree standing outside Jack London's cottage in Glen Ellen that over several centuries provided sustenance for Coast Miwok Indians and later nurtured the famous author's artistic spirit.

The iconic tree was what London saw when he looked outside the window of his office. On days when the weather was good, he sat in the shade of the tree's massive branches, notebook in hand, and wrote.

“It's amazing what this tree has seen in the 300-plus years it's been here,” Katherine Dunbar, a volunteer docent at Jack London State Historic Park, said Friday while gazing upon the tree.

Park officials say the tree has to come down because it is infected with pathogenic fungi and is dying. They express concern that the tree or its branches could fall and damage London's cottage, or possibly injure someone.

“Essentially, we are felling a diseased heritage tree in order to protect a fragile historic landmark,” said Breck Parkman, the senior archaeologist for California State Parks.

The plans have upset park visitors, including Philadelphia resident Sally Bullard, who on Friday called the tree's loss “tragic.”

“But it's the cycle of life,” she said. “All things die.”

Park officials are planning to host several community events prior to removing the tree in the fall, likely in November, said Tjiska Van Wyk, executive director of Jack London Park Partners, which operates the park.

“It's very much a sacred gathering spot,” she said.

Native Americans relied on the 50-foot-tall coast live oak as a source of acorns, which was a staple of their diet.

London found a different kind of sustenance from the tree after he purchased his “Beauty Ranch” in 1905. He developed themes about nature in his writing, including in the novel, “The Valley of the Moon,” which was released in 1913.

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