California's real Home Tree

Majestic old coast live oak treeTrees are beautiful, but they are not just objects of beauty. Their majesty runs deep, particularly with the old trees, a majesty both mystical and practical.

Great old trees came to mind when I met James Cameron, the director of Avatar, on Earth Day. I presented him with a Coast Live Oak seedling, aka quercus agrifolia, in thanks for his work in raising global environmental concern, and for making a tree the star of the largest box office movie in history.

Cameron hasn't stopped with making the film. His Home Tree Initiative aims to plant one million trees around the world. TreePeople has been selected as one of the Initiative's seventeen global partners, by the Earth Day Network.

Here's a photo of me on the way to the Earth Day event, bringing a young oak tree that was grown in  TreePeople's nursery from an acorn harvested in the Santa Monica mountains, part of our restoration program.

Andy carrying the coast live oak seedling for James Cameron
As I presented the seedling to Jim Cameron, I spoke about some of the attributes and power of our native oaks
For thousands of years, these trees sustained Native Americans who depended on their acorns. California oak trees support over 300 species of critters. They capture and hold tens of thousands of gallons of water in the highly porous, mulched soil around their deep and massive root systems, which can reach 100 feet below the ground. And, not least, Coast Live Oaks in particular are exceptionally fire resistant. A thick barrier of these trees can even stop wildfires around homes, because it takes more energy to ignite them than the fire can usually muster.

After receiving the seedling, Cameron told me about his own relationship with Coast Live Oaks, in particular with a magnificent specimen he spotted once while driving up to Santa Barbara with his wife several years ago. He was so taken with the tree that he stopped to get out and take a picture and - his wife interjected with a laugh - didn't come back for an hour!

Cameron later gave the shots he took of that grand old California oak to his art designers, and it became the model for the Home Tree, whose fall is the great tragedy of Avatar.
 
Home Tree from Avatar
[picture of Home Tree courtesy of 20th-Century Fox]
 
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If you happen to be a lucky California oak tree owner and want to ensure its survival and magnificence, there are some good tree care references available at the California Oak Foundation.