Growing a Greener Future One Acorn at a Time

In 1977, TreePeople set roots at Coldwater Canyon Park, a 45-acre slice of wonder hidden in the Santa Monica mountains. The former fire station is home to miles of hiking trails, magnificent old oak trees, and some of the most scenic vistas in the LA.  For over 40 years, we’ve had a profound connection to not only this hilly outcrop that we call home, but to the entire mountain range that surrounds us and the city. That is why we here at TreePeople are committed to preserving and restoring the wildlands in the Santa Monica Mountains for generations to come.

That work starts with the restoring the native coast live oak.

From their deepest roots to their tallest branches, these mighty trees are the cornerstone of our local ecological world. Oaks provide food and shelter to countless animal species from squirrels to great-horned owls to mountain lions. They also clean the air we breathe, help store water and combat erosion. Without the coast live oak, LA as we know it would be a vastly different place.

Every year, we grow our own oaks from locally harvested acorns for our continuing restoration work in the Santa Monica mountains.

“It’s important to grow local to where you will be planting,” explains Jack Smith, Forestry Assistant at TreePeople. “The genes, that coded information in the plant, about that particular mountain canyon or tributary stream, will be passed down from generation to generation. Not only does this help them survive, but it helps foster biodiversity and a healthier gene pool, which is essential to the survival of the species in the future.”

Although it would be easier just to purchase farm-raised oaks for our planting projects, not only would we lose that wonderful genetic diversity, trees from commercial nurseries have a harder time adapting to life in the wild.

“While the plants at a commercial nursery may look more impressive and give you more of a sense of instant gratification, those plants are root bound – their roots tangled together in the shape of the container,” Jack tells us.

Those roots are the most important part of a tree’s survival system.

When oaks are grown from acorns, they can spend their early years establishing a robust root system and don’t have to play catch up like trees adapting from the nursery-life of being watered and cared for every day. This gives oaks we plant a better chance of survival and sets them up for a healthier future.

“These trees can live for hundreds and hundreds of years, and it’s essential we prepare them for that the best we can,” says Jack.

Climate change, invasive species and human development threaten this vital ecological hot spot. Help us continue this vital work in the Santa Monica mountains.

Sign up to volunteer today.

As staff photographer and videographer, Adam brings a decade long passion in telling people's stories to TreePeople. From the joy of a tree planting to the behind the scenes efforts of our policy advocacy and restoration work, Adam captures it through his lens so it can be shared with the world. When he's not behind the camera, he can most likely be found curled up with his cat Kinsella.