Ardent About Arbors

Photo: Rod Searcy

As she inconspicuously makes her way among the coast live oaks in Kennedy Grove, Carol Sweetapple pauses frequently, pruning pole in hand. She pulls down a twig, then a few leaves--scrutinizing everything for traces of disease and pest infestation.

"I look at oak trees as an important heirloom in our landscape," she says. "I am a guardian--a steward of the trees."

Affectionately dubbed the "Oak Tree Lady," Sweetapple protects coast live oaks, blue oaks and valley oaks as part of Stanford's integrated pest management team. Sweetapple and fellow tree doctors Andy Butcher and Ingrid Graeve celebrate their fourth year as a team in spring 2001. They have plenty to do. At last count, 6,763 oaks graced the inner campus, according to Karen Stidd, horticultural analyst for the grounds department. Thousands more can be found in the arboretum, student housing areas and the Foothills.

Soon, visitors will see Sweetapple placing about five 6-by-4-inch cards containing 100,000 green lacewing eggs in the upper branches of each oak. If timed precisely, newly emerged lacewing larvae should devour millions of pesky tussock moth caterpillars. While the process remains invisible to those on the ground, the effects will enhance the campus far into the future.