Appearance and hardiness of Oaks vary widely, but all produce acorns preceded by inconspicuous flowers. Single nuts are more or less enclosed in a cuplike cap covered with many closely set scales. In some species, the acorns are edible,with a sweet flavor. Some oaks are widely planted over large areas, while others have a limited rangeQuercus acutissima
Moderate to fast growth to 35–45 ft. (ultimately 50–70 ft.) tall and wide, usually with open, spreading habit. Dark gray bark with red-brown furrows. Shiny dark green, pointed, oblong leaves are 3Í–7 in. long, with bristle-toothed, slightly wavy edges; they look like chestnut (Castanea) leaves. Foliage is yellowish when new, turns yellow to yellowish brown in fall; may hang on late into winter.Acorns are blunt cylinders to 1 in. long, enclosed for two-thirds of their length in a burlike cap. Prefers well-drained, slightly acid soil but is fairly tolerant of other soils. Good shade or lawn tree.
Round headed and densely foliaged; to 20–70 ft.tall, often with even greater spread.Smooth dark gray bark, deeply fissured in very old trees. Oval, convex, stiff, leathery dark green leaves, tooth edged and hollylike, 1–3 in. long. Foliage is attractive all year (unless devoured by oak moth caterpillars). Conical,3/4– 1/2 -in. acorns are enclosed for one-fourth of their length by a cap with thin, overlapping scales.Has greedy roots; drops almost all its old leaves in early spring.Despite flaws, a handsome and worthwhile shade or street tree. Can be sheared to make a 10–12-ft. hedge. Susceptible to sudden oak death.Quercus berberidifolia
Native to California chaparral from 300–5,000-ft. elevation. Dense growth 6–15 ft. tall and wide. Leaves variable in shape, with wavy edges; may have smooth, toothed, or spiny margins.Medium green on top, gray-green below. Oval acorns to1 in. long enclosed by up toone-half in knobby cap with spiral pattern. Good unthirstyclipped hedge, backgroundshrub, informal screen. Longconfused with Q. dumosa, which is native only near the SouthernCalifornia coast.Quercus bicolor
Slow to moderate growth to 50–60 ft., rarely taller,with equal or greater spread. Bark of trunk and branches flakes off in scales. Shallowly lobed or scalloped leaves are 3–7 in. long, a little more than half as wide, shiny dark green above, silvery white beneath. Fall color is usually yellow but sometimes orange, fiery red, or purple. Oblong to egg-shaped, 1-in. acorns, enclosed by one-third in rounded cap with hairy scales. Tolerates wet soil; also thrives where soil is well drained.Quercus chrysolepis
Handsome, round-headed or somewhatspreading tree to 20–60 ft. tall and wide. Bark is smooth and whitish when young, checked and gray with age. Oval, 1–2-in.-long leaves may be smooth edged or spiny; shiny medium green above, pale blue or grayish beneath,with thin felting of silvery or golden hairs on undersides when new.
Can reach 60–80 ft. tall, 40–60 ft. wide. Pyramidal when young, round topped in maturity.Graybrown bark cracked into irregular plates. Bright green leaves are 3– 6 in. long,with pointed, deeply cut lobes; turn scarlet where fall nights are cold. Rounded,3/4–1-in. acorns half-covered in a bowl-like cap.Quercus douglasii
Native to dry foothillsaround California’s Central Valley and interior valleys of Southern California. Low branching, wide spreading; to 30–50 ft. tall, 40–70 ft. wide. Light gray bark is shallowly checked in small squares. Shallowly lobed, oval, bluish green leaves are 1 1/2–4 in. long, 3/4–2 in. wide. Attractive fall colors: pastel pink, orange, yellow. Egg-shaped, 3/4–1 1/4-in. acorns with sharply pointed tip and thin, flat cap. Good in dry, hot situations. Immune to sudden oak death.Quercus durata
Native to northernCoast Ranges to San LuisObispo area and to SierraNevada foothills, south to SanGabriel Mountains. In the wild,mostly confined to serpentinesoil (a kind of nutrient-poorsoil). Dense, rounded growth to10 ft. tall and 8–12 ft. wide.Bare and somewhat leggy to3–5 ft. aboveground, then forms open-branched tiers of foliage. Tough, oval, convex, 3/4–1-in.-long leaves have smooth or prickly edges; dark green above, pale gray beneath, with a dense coating of fine, soft hairs. Acorns variable: 1/2–1 in. long, often almost cylindrical, half-enclosed in a warty, bowl-shaped cap.Quercus emoryi
Native from Arizona to Texasand adjacent Mexico. Handsomeand rounded, to 50 ft. tall and40 ft. wide. Leathery darkgreen, oval, sharply toothedleaves to 2–3 in. long are holly-likebut flat; turn golden anddrop just before new growthbegins in late spring. Round-tipped,oblong, edible acornsenclosed by up to one-half inbowl-like cap. Grows well in lowdesert; tolerates a variety ofsoils. Needs periodic summersoakings.Quercus engelmannii
Native toSouthern California. Spreadinghabit to 40–50 ft. tall, oftentwice as wide. Thick, leathery,dull bluish green, oval or oblongleaves; wavy surfaced or flat,usually smooth edged. Oval tocylindrical, round-tipped acornsto 1 1/4 in. long are half-enclosedin a warty cap. Tree grows bestwith monthly deep soakings inwarm season, but don’t keep itconstantly moist. In its nativearea, it has the same cherishednative status as the more widespreadQ. agrifolia. Not susceptibleto sudden oak death.Quercus gambellii
Native toNevada, Arizona, east to Coloradoand New Mexico. Slow to15–30 ft. (rarely 50 ft.) tall, halfas wide. Often forms coloniesfrom root system. Thick, ridgedtrunk bark is light gray to whitish.Leaves 3–7 in. long, half aswide, with seven to nine deeplobes; dark green above, paleand densely hairy below. Foliageturns yellow, orange, or red infall. Woolly, egg-shaped or globular,sharp-tipped acorns nearly1 in. long, half-covered by aknobby cap. Characteristic oakof Arizona’s Oak Creek Canyonand foothills south of Denver.Adaptable to wide range of soilsand moisture levels; grows rapidlyinto a substantial tree indeep, rich soil.
Native to California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia. Slow to moderate growth to 40 to 90 ft. tall, 30 to 60 ft. wide, with rounded crown. Branches are often twisted; bark is gray, scaly, checked. Leathery, 3 - to 6-in.-long, broadly oval leaves with rounded lobes. Foliage is glossy dark green above, rusty or downy beneath; turns reddish brown in fall. Globular, edible acorns to 1 1/4 in. long, bulging from a small, scale-covered cap. Tree casts moderate shade and has a deep, nonaggressive root system. Immune to sudden oak death.Quercus ilex
Mediterranean native. To 30–60 ft. tall and wide, with dense, rounded head and smooth dark gray bark. Leaves vary in shape and size but are usually oval to lance shaped, 1–3 in. long, with smooth or prickly edges; rich dark green on top, covered with gray or yellow hairs beneath. Egg-shaped to nearly round, 1– 1/2 -in. acorns are gray brown with darker lines, half-enclosed with deep cap that tapers to stem. Tolerates salt air; will grow in constant sea wind but tends to be shrubby there. Inland, growth rate can be fairly fast but varies with soil and water conditions. Good evergreen street or lawn tree where coast live oak (Q. agrifolia) is difficult to maintain, though it lacks that tree’s open grace.Quercus kelloggii
To 30–80 ft. tall and wide,with short trunk, ascending branches, and rounded crown. Dark gray, furrowed, checked bark. Handsome foliage: leaves unfold soft pink or dusty rose, mature to dark glossy green, turn yellow or yellow orange in fall.Leaves 4–10 in. long,2 1/2 –6 in.wide,with deep, sharply tapered lobes ending in bristly points. Oblong or almost conical, 1– 1/2 -in. acorns enclosed by about half in bowl-shaped cap. Good moderate-size tree for spring and fall color; attractive winter trunk and branch pattern. Susceptible to sudden oak death.
California’s mightiest oak, often reaching 70 ft. or taller,with equal or greater spread.Massive trunk and limbs with thick, distinctly checked gray bark. Straight and erect during its first several decades of growth; more spreading with age. Limbs often picturesquely twisted; long, drooping outer branches sometimes sweep ground.Deeply cut, round-lobed leaves are 3–4 in. long, 2–3 in.wide; dark green above, paler beneath. Shiny, 1/2 –2 1/2 -in. acorns are conical, enclosed by one-third in warty, bowl-shaped cap.
Moderate to fairly rapid growth to 50–80 ft. tall, 30–40 ft.wide. Brownish gray bark with shallow ridges and furrows. Pyramidal in youth,with lower branches sweeping downward. If you remove those branches to gain walking space, the limbs above will simply bend into the same position—so wait to remove lower limbs until tree ismature and has formed an open, rounded top. Glossy dark green leaves are 3–6 in. long, deeply cut into bristle-pointed lobes; in brisk fall weather, leaves turn yellow, red, and finally russet brown.Much of the dead foliage hangs on in winter. Nearly round acorns to 3/4 in. across, enclosed by about a third in saucer-shaped, fuzzy cap. Less tolerant of dry conditions than most oaks.Develops chlorosis in alkaline soils.Unlike most native Western oaks, it is a fine tree for growing in lawns.
To 50–90 ft. tall, 30–50 ft.wide. Pyramidal in youth, spreading wider with age. Smooth gray bark. Leaves look more like those of willow (Salix) than those of typical oak—2 1/2 –5 in. long,Ï–1 in.wide, smooth edged. Foliage turns yellowish before falling; in warmer regions, dead leaves may hang on through winter.Has the most delicate foliage pattern of all the oaks. Spherical,Í-in.-wide acorns with a shallow cap enclosing only the end of the nut.Quercus robur
Fairly fast grower to 50–60 ft. tall, 30 ft.wide,with rather short trunk and very wide, open head.Dark green, 3–4Í-in.-long, 2–3-in.- wide leaves with three to seven pairs of rounded lobes. Leaves hold until late fall without much color change.Acorns are 1– 1/2 in. long, varying in shape from oval to oblong, coming to an abrupt point at tip; covered by up to one-third in velvety, bowl-shaped cap.Quercus rubra
Fast growth to 60–75 ft. tall, 50 ft.wide,with spreading branches and rounded canopy. Bark becomes quite dark and fissured with age. Leaves 5– 8 in. long, 4–6 in.wide,with three to seven pairs of sharp-pointed lobes.New leaves and leafstalks are red or bright yellow in spring, dark green in summer, turning dark red, ruddy brown, or orange in fall.Acorns are 3/4–1 in. long, shaped like a toy top, enclosed by onethird in shallow cap; often profuse, creating litter on pavement.Needs fertile soil and regular moisture. High-branching habit and reasonably open shade make it a good tree for big lawns, parks, broad avenues.Deep roots make it good to garden under. Known host of the fungus that causes sudden oak death.Quercus suber
To 30–60 ft. high and wide. Trunk and main limbs covered with handsome, thick, corky bark (the cork of commerce). Toothed, 3-in., oval leaves are shiny dark green above, gray beneath. Egg-shaped acorns with a short point are 3/4– 1/2 in. long, covered by one-third to one-half in bowl-shaped cap. Good garden shade tree; lighttextured foliage contrasts interestingly with massive, fissured trunk. Needs good drainage. Fairly tolerant of various soils, but foliage may turn yellow in highly alkaline conditions. One of best oaks for desert.Value as street or park tree diminishes when children find out how easy it is to carve its bark.Quercus vaccinifolia
Native tomountains of Northern Californiaand southern Oregon. Grows to2–5 ft. tall and at least twice aswide, with sprawling branches.Oblong to egg-shaped, smooth-marginedleaves, pointed orround at the tip; shiny gray-greenabove, gray with sparsegolden hairs below. Round tooval acorns to 1/2 in. long, withshallow cap covered in thin,hairy scales. Useful in wild gardensand as an informal hedge.Quercus virginiana
Grows at a moderate to fast rate, eventually reaching 40–80 ft. tall, with a heavy-limbed crown spreading twice as wide. Long lived; with age, bark becomes very dark and checked. Smooth-edged, narrowly oval, 1/2 –5-in.-long leaves are shiny dark green above and whitish beneath. Oval acorns to 1 in. long, with sharp spine at tip; enclosed by one-fourth in bowl-shaped cap with hairy scales. Best in deep, rich,moist soil. In hot interior climates, it’s the most attractive of all evergreen oaks. Best oak for lawn planting in low desert.Quercus wislizenii
Native to the Sierra foothills,eastern side of Coast Ranges,interior valleys from southernOregon to Southern California.To 30–75 ft. tall, often broaderthan high, with dense, roundedcanopy. Elliptical glossy greenleaves have smooth or spinyedges and abruptly pointed tip.Slender, conical, sharp-pointed,3/4–1 1/2-in. acorns are enclosedby one-fourth to one-half in aflat-scaled cap. Handsome treefor parks and big lawns. Youngplants are sparse and angular,offering little hint of their ultimatebeauty.
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