December 2007


In the spring of 1982 the National Science Foundation sponsored a trip to Santa Cruz Island. Fighting seasickness for the hour and a half, I accompanied my husband and his field botany professor to the island, in a motorboat. Once on land again, I was ready to hike, and would soon see Quercus tomentella for the first time in the wild. I left the island later that day hoping to someday have one of these dignified and majestic trees, commonly called island oak, growing in my garden.

The following December my husband and I drove south to collect acorns from mature island oak at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. Having secured permission from the director, we arrived on a Saturday morning and went right to the coppice of trees. Eager to reach them, my husband was marching briskly along, while I, three months pregnant at the time, followed at a slower pace. As soon as I caught up with him I struggled to my knees, to fill my burlap sack with the bountiful supply of seed that...