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Arbor Day weekend event in Cambria focuses on Monterey pine conservation 

Plucking cones from their needle-covered beds is a task only for the keenest trained eyes when it comes to finding Monterey pine tree seeds that are ready—and willing—to procreate. 

“To harvest the seeds, you have to climb a Monterey pine … get to the pine cone before it opens up,” said Connie Gannon, executive director for Greenspace, The Cambria Land Trust. Because once that cone opens its doors, the seeds disappear into the forest floor below—and even the best set of lookers won’t be able to find them.

click to enlarge NEXT GEN:  Greenspace, The Cambria Land Trust, will be selling Monterey pine tree saplings at the upcoming Arbor Day Festival on April 30. - PHOTO COURTESY OF GREENSPACE
  • NEXT GEN: Greenspace, The Cambria Land Trust, will be selling Monterey pine tree saplings at the upcoming Arbor Day Festival on April 30.

Those tiny seedling makers get dried and stored away at Greenspace, eventually becoming little saplings like the ones that will be sold for $10 a tree at the upcoming Arbor Day Festival in Cambria on April 30. 

Normally, Monterey pines need heat, i.e. a forest fire, to release the seeds and get them to germinate. At Greenspace, the trick, oddly enough, is to boil the pine cones as a way of mimicking the heat necessary to liberate that next generation of potential forest dwellers. Because, as Gannon puts it, they’re not going to burn the forest down near town to regenerate its stand of troubled trees. 

Greenspace, the nearly 30-year-old nonprofit, has taken on the task of helping Cambria rehabilitate its dead and dying Monterey pine forest, which is one of three native stands on the Central Coast. Native stands are also in the Año Nuevo and Monterey/Carmel areas. 

The drought combined with a pesky bark beetle and something called pitch canker (inhibits a tree’s ability to make sap) have killed off a lot of the stand in and around Cambria. Normally, the pines are healthy enough to fend off one or the other of these threats, but the united trio is hard to fight. 

“The understory is doing well right now because of the rain. But if you look at the forest, you see a lot of these great big dead trees,” Gannon said. “Our forest has been really stressed.”

Property owners are replacing those great big pieces of tinder as part of an effort to reduce the fire risk in Cambria. Usually, if someone cut down a Monterey pine, they would need to replace it with six saplings. But because of the circumstances, the ratio is currently one-to-one. The little guys Greenspace coaxes to life are the exact genetic makeup needed to replace the Monterey pines that grow in Cambria. 

As part of the Arbor Day Festival, Greenspace will hold educational seminars about how to plant and care for the saplings, in addition to hosting an art exhibit of field drawings and Haiku poetry produced by Santa Lucia Middle School students after a field trip to Strawberry Canyon, an open space owned by Greenspace. There will also be live music by the Zen Mountain Poets. 

The festival is part of a full weekend of celebration in Cambria called Trees and Bees. Beautify Cambria will present the Bee Faire on Sunday, May 1. There will be beekeeping demos, seminars about pollinator-friendly plants, beeswax crafts, and food and drink made with the help of those buzzing bees. The American Honey Queen, Kim Kester from Wisconsin, will also make an appearance. 

The Arbor Day Festival has a $10 entrance fee—it’s a benefit for Greenspace—runs from 1 to 4 p.m. on April 30, and will be held at the Greenspace Creekside Reserve located at 2264 Center St. in Cambria. The Bee Faire takes place May 1 from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Cambria Historical Society Garden (there’s no entrance fee). 

For more information, contact Gannon at Greenspace by calling 927-2866 or emailing or contact Claudia Harmon at Beautify Cambria by emailing  

Fast Fact

The Atascadero Branch of the American Association of University Women is offering two scholarships to women who have completed one year of college at an accredited school and are from North County. The application is available at, and the deadline is April 22. For more information, contact scholarship chair Jeanne Miller at

Editor Camillia Lanham wrote this week’s Strokes & Plugs. Email story ideas to

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