Felix entered the Mystical dorm room with muddy hands and a wide smile. He had been doing his favorite thing in the world — gardening! He decided to plant oaks. The tall trees with their wide crown of leaves and branches felt just perfect.
While learning about oaks, Felix found out about a species that was found only in a particular region in Mexico, a country in North America. In fact, Mexico is home to more species of oak than any country in the world. But many of these species are in trouble, especially the arroyo oak. For some reason, the trees have simply stopped reproducing.
Felix thought to himself, “I must go and see for myself.”
Felix washed his hands, fluttered his wings, and set off to the state of Baja California Sur in Mexico. He flew to the Sierra La Laguna mountains in the south. On reaching his destination, he enquired, “Could you point me towards the arroyo oak trees?”
“Do you mean the ‘Encino arroyero’?” replied the rancher. A rancher is a person who runs a farm, especially one where cattle, sheep, and horses are raised. He added, “That’s what we call the arroyo oak locally. It means ‘stream oak’.”
“Will I find it near the stream?” queried Felix.
The rancher nodded, “Yes, we are so grateful for the arroyo oaks. They have supported our community for many years. The trees’ acorns (oak nuts with seeds inside) are food for our pigs and goats. Our grandmothers also used them to make food like tortillas. Besides, the arroyos also gave us shade.”
“Oh, the trees sound lovely!” exclaimed Felix.
“Unfortunately, only about 5,000 arroyos are left,” shared the rancher, sadly, “Come, let me show you the oaks.”
Walking towards the stream, he added, “Climate change and animals have affected the arroyo oaks. Cows end up stomping on the seedlings and pigs eat the acorns. That’s why we don’t have many young trees. Most of them are ancient.”
“That is so sad,” said Felix, “Are you trying to save the trees?”
“Yes, of course! We, local ranchers, have adopted seedlings. We protect them. Along with this, we have been planting acorns in our ranches,” said the rancher, “But it isn’t an easy process.”
They reached the stream. Felix looked up at the towering, gnarly trees and greeted, “Hello, arroyo oaks. You’re truly beautiful.”