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Movie star helps raise awareness about threats to California oaks

When actress René Russo appeared in a video (posted below) about “New Oak Threats,” she wasn’t acting. The veteran of big-budget thrillers like Lethal Weapon 3 and 4 and the Thomas Crown Affair expressed her personal convictions when she called for Californians to become educated and observant guardians of California oaks.

“I love our beautiful oak trees,” Russo said. “But there’s a new pest in town, and we could potentially lose every tree that we have. It would change the face of Southern California. It’s terrifying.”

The actress says the death of 80,000 oak trees in San Diego County since 2008 from goldspotted oak borer is one example of the devastation wreaked by one invasive pest.

“We need your help to save the trees,” Russo said.

Goldspotted oak borers leave D shaped exit holes in bark.
The video presents the tell-tale signs of two serious threats to oaks - goldspotted oak borers (GSOB), which leave “D” shaped exit holes in the bark, and polyphagous shot hole borers (PSHB), which exit bark from small, black rimmed holes surrounded by wood discoloration.

Goldspotted oak borer, a native of southeastern Arizona, feed beneath the bark of certain oak trees. After several years, the damage to nutrient- and water-conducting tissue kills the tree.

Polyphagous shot hole borer carries a fungus from tree to tree when it burrows in bark to lay eggs. The fungus grows and spreads throughout susceptible trees. Some trees suffer branch die-back, while others are killed outright. The polyphagous shot hole borer is not only a threat to oaks but it can also affect more than 200 other tree species, including native California sycamore, avocado, and many popular street tree species.

“It’s really a whole landscape changer,” said certified arborist Rosi Dagit of the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains. “All of our street trees, our urban landscape trees and all of our wildland trees are at risk. What we really need are eyes on the ground.”

In the second half of the video, Sabrina Drill, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Los Angeles County, explains what Southern Californians can do to protect trees.

  • Visit the website Southern California Oak Pests ( to learn about the pests.
  • Educate your friends, neighbors and community leaders about the pests.
  • Don’t move firewood in and out of your local area. If you buy firewood, ask where it came from. On camping trips, burn wood you collect or purchase and don’t take any home. For more on firewood see the website
  • Learn what to look for and report your observations on the Southern California oak pests website.
  • Be an advocate for your trees.

“Hopefully, we can get this done,” Russo said. “We’ve lived with these beautiful oak trees for thousands of years. It would be devastating to lose them.”

The video, a joint effort of UC Cooperative Extension and the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, was produced, directed and edited by Toby Keeler of Fine Cut Inc.

Watch the 10-minute video here:

Posted on Monday, March 11, 2013 at 7:11 AM

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