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Jack London's ill oak tree gets native blessing

  • At Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen, Saturday August 10, 2013 a small group of park visitors, including docents and state parks officials held a ceremony and prayer for a large oak tree, foreground, that will be taken down in front of Jack London's cottage due to the tree being diseased.(Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

Ann Swoveland walked around the massive coast live oak that looms over Jack London's historic writing room as a plume of fragrant smoke wafted from a bundle of burning white sage.

On a misty Saturday morning, the elder from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria chanted a blessing in Coast Miwok to the centuries-old tree that provided generations of her people with acorns and inspired London's writing.

"It's a beautiful tree," Swoveland said. "If it could talk, I'm sure it would tell many stories. We honor you."

Jack London State Park Oak Tree


Known as Jack's Oak, the majestic tree is slated to be removed in November from Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen.

Pathogenic fungi are causing the tree's canopy to die and some of the limbs are failing. During a December storm, a limb 30 inches in diameter fell and damaged a fence.

Breck Parkman, senior archeologist for California State Parks, said the tree is likely 300 to 400 years old and will be dated once it is cut down. Oak saplings will rise in the tree's place, he said.

"I think of this tree as a grandmother," Parkman said. "She's a bridge to the past."

The tree sits next to the cottage where Jack and Charmian London lived on their Beauty Ranch. The couple purchased the Sonoma Mountain property in 1905, two years after "Call of the Wild" was published. London died there in 1916.

London gazed at the oak while writing novels such as "White Fang" and "Valley of the Moon." One of his last works, a play called "The Acorn Planter," was likely inspired by the tree, Parkman said.

After consulting arborists, park officials determined they need to remove the tree in order to protect the historic landmark and the public's safety.

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