May 10, 2016
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A group of Richmond High students has learned enough in the school’s Earth Team program to be able to warn the city of San Pablo that some of its trees are unwell.

At last week’s City Council meeting, members of the Richmond High Urban Forestry Team delivered a presentation warning that five of 22 trees recently inspected by the students along San Pablo Avenue near Rivers Street are infected by Fire Blight, an incurable and destructive disease that can spread. The image below, produced by the students, shows the Fire Blight-infected trees marked by red dots. The green dots represent healthy trees and the orange are unhealthy for other reasons.


Pear (Pyrus species), and quince (Cydonia) trees are extremely susceptible to Fire Blight, while Apple, crabapple (Malus species) and firethorns (Pyracantha species) are also frequently damaged, according to the students.

The disease causes blackened leaves, oozing wounds and the tree to lean into a candy cane shape.

Students advised council that one of the few ways to manage the problem is to prune the infected parts each Spring, when the trees blossom, preventing bees and beetles from spreading the disease via pollination.

Another option is to remove the infected trees.

The city says it will now seek to examine the extent of the problem and bring possible solutions back to City Council for discussion.

Despite the unfortunate news, the ultimate purpose of the council presentation was to recognize the students for taking on the task of being informed environmental stewards.

Earth Team unites Bay Area students and experts with the purpose of spreading education and results. Students apply what they learn in the classroom on real-life projects while building community connections and learning teamwork in the process.


The Richmond High Earth Team worked with former UC Berkeley Forest Ecology Professor Dr. Joe McBride to diagnose the trees near the San Pablo Motel.

The students, also known as Urban Forestry Interns, accomplished multiple other projects, including several tree plantings in West County. For example, this year in San Pablo they helped plant 20 trees in Davis Park and another 20 in Wanlass Park. They also helped plant trees during the massive community renovation John F Kennedy Park in Richmond last fall.

Students also canvassed neighborhoods to encourage neighbors to adopt a tree and to provide education on the importance of having trees.

San Pablo Mayor Rich Kinney said he was impressed by the Earth Team’s presentation. He added it was great seeing some of his former Helms Middle School students continuing to succeed at Richmond High.

“We are very grateful and we will take this information and use it for our benefit,” Kinney said. “We are all very impressed with every single one of you.”

Photos and images courtesy of Richmond High Urban Forestry Team.



About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.