Valley Oak, California White Oak
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 lobata
This deciduous tree is 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 are often picturesquely twisted; long, drooping outer branches sometimes sweep the ground. Deeply cut, round-lobed leaves are 3–4 in. long and 2–3 in. wide; dark green above, paler beneath. Shiny, 1/2–2 1/2-in. acorns are conical, enclosed by one-third in a warty, bowl-shaped cap.
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