We Call Her Big Mama Oak

We call her Big Mama Oak.

Most hikers in Coldwater Canyon Park probably don’t know her by name, but I am well acquainted with her. She has likely been a resident of our park for somewhere between 200 and 300 years.

Coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia), like Big Mama Oak, can live to be 850 to 1,500 years old!

From providing food and shelter to countless animal species to cleaning the air we breathe, helping store water and combat erosion, these oaks are the cornerstone of our local ecosystems.

There’s a chance that as a young tree, our Mama Oak provided shade and acorns to the Tongva people living amongst the Santa Monica Mountains centuries ago. According to descriptions from around 200 years ago, these oaks were so abundant in the San Fernando Valley that, when looking down from our hill, the valley appeared to be a sea of oak trees. The city of Encino even gots its name from the famous tree since the Spanish encino translates directly to oak!

Like many of the trees in Coldwater Canyon Park, we see Mama Oak as a loving part of the TreePeople family.

About six years ago, I discovered a fungus spreading among her roots under her right root flare. I thought this might mean the end of Big Mama, but she is strong! When we realized she needed a little help to get through her golden years we did what we could to support her – just like a loving family would.

Jim Hardie, Director of Park Operations, in Coldwater Canyon Park

While the fungus is untreatable, she has many years of life left in her. To help her through some possible tough times ahead, we’ve installed a crutch on one of her larger branches and rigged cables from two other branches to nearby trees to help support her as well.

We’re giving her care, just as she gives so many benefits to us and the park.

With extreme heat and drought becoming more common, Mama’s Oak’s family needs some extra TLC. Through weekly park work days, we can give the care where we see it needed but more needs to be done. Our hard work to keep our family thriving and park open is only possible through donations from friends like you!

Become a member, donate or dedicate a tree and help Mama Oak and the rest of the park family thrive for years to come!

Thank you, and hope to meet you on our trails soon!

By Jim Hardie

Jim Hardie was a full-time actor when he became interested in TreePeople after reading about our weekend plantings in the newspaper. Shortly after he started volunteering, Jim took TreepPeople's first-ever Citizen Forestry training in 1986 and began leading and training our growing volunteer base. A TreePeople board member since 1994, Jim has also donated his time to produce our summer benefit entertainment series for the past decade. Jim currently serves as TreePeople's Director of Park Operations.