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Quercus agrifolia
Quercus agrifolia

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Zones 7-9, 14-24
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Quercus agrifolia

Coast Live Oak
Fagaceae
Evergreen, Trees

QUERCUS

The archetypal oak grows large and spreads wide, with muscular, near-horizontal lower branches that seem to defy gravity. But the group’s 500 species, all native to the Northern Hemisphere, also include upright, pyramidal, and shrubby oaks; in fact, “chaparral” comes from chaparra—Spanish for a dwarf evergreen shrub oak. Oak leaves can be deciduous or evergreen (the latter are called live oaks); lobed, toothed, or smooth edged; but they’re always arranged in an alternate pattern along stems. Some have terrific fall color. All oaks produce inconspicuous flowers followed by acorns, whose single nuts have cuplike caps covered with closely set scales. Some kinds of acorns are edible and sweet, while others are bitter and unpalatable.

Oaks come in two broad categories: white oaks have acorns that mature during the season in which they are produced, and often have leaves with rounded lobes; red and black oaks have acorns that take two seasons to mature, and often have leaves with pointed lobes. Each group can hybridize only within itself. 

Quercus agrifolia

Evergreen tree. Round headed and densely foliaged; grows to 20–70 ft. tall, often with even greater spread. Smooth dark gray bark is 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 its flaws, this is a handsome and worthwhile shade or street tree. Can be sheared to make a 10–12-ft. hedge. Susceptible to sudden oak death.

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