A book close at hand.

"...deep alluvium at the mouths of canyons that drain into the sea. These rich soils overlay the broad, uplifted terraces of coastal valleys such as the Russian River, Santa Clara, Salinas, Santa Ynez, and Santa Ana. The live oak woodlands of the Santa Barbara plain and the massive trees of Mission Canyon are typical of this species at its best. Coast live oak also grows on rolling hills formed from ancient coastal sand dunes. Such porous soils, however, are lower in nutrients and retain little moisture during summer. As a result, oak woodlands occur here as clumps of small trees separated by large patches of open grassland."

Cited from Bruce Pavlik's Oaks of California for a blog meme explained by EAL thusly: "[G]rab the book closest to hand—no cheating—turn to page 56, choose the 5th sentence down, and post the results, including other lines if necessary to provide context."

I thumb through this book at night sometimes before bed, trying to glean a better understanding of California's oaks. We have 9 tree oaks--5 deciduous & 4 evergreen--and 11 species of shrub oak. I have a little cutting propagule of shrub oak Quercus berberidifolia growing in a pot down in the garden.

The Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) is most common in my area and as far as I'm concerned the best place to see them is the campus of my alma mater, UC Santa Cruz, sited in a mixed oak-redwood forest.

I would be content if I could learn to easily identify just a few other California oaks--Valley, Blue, and Black--but the book is little help. Basically it says oaks are very variable and hybridize freely; identifying them can be hard. Well...heck.

I took a winter walk in an oak woodland last December.


lisa said...

I have completely avoided learning squat about tree ID, aside from the ones I purchased that have tags! Now I feel vindicated. Thank you.

Jon said...

Like you, I find oaks very interesting trees. The live oaks we have here in the Deep South draped in Spanish moss are truly magnificent. Last year I did a post on my blog about Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana with a picture of the famous driveway lined with them.

It is always a treat to visit your interesting blog and feast my eyes on your diverse collection of plants and photos.

Hope y'all have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Jon at Mississippi Garden

Anonymous said...

Blue Oaks are most easily identified by looking at them from a distance when they're growing next to other oak species. In that situation, it's quite easy to tell which oaks have bluer foliage.

Black Oaks are identifiable by their large, very deeply lobed leaves and, assuming they're well beyond the seedling stage, very straight trunks that tend not to have many branches on the lower portions. If you're standing right near a Black Oak, you'll typically just see a dark, straight, branchless trunk. The lowest leaves will be way above your head.

Valley Oaks have leaves similar to Black Oaks but not as big. They grow wider than Black Oaks but not as tall as Black Oaks, and they have branches much nearer to the ground. Their branches are extremely twisted, and in the case of very old Valley Oaks, the branches usually take on a somewhat weeping form.

Those three are common around here. Coast Live Oaks, though, I couldn't possibly identify.

chuck b. said...

Thanks, Gayle! That's awesome.