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Zones 5, 7-10, 14-24
Full Sun
Full
Minimal Water
Minimal

Quercus berberidifolia

Scrub Oak
Fagaceae
Shrubs, Trees, Semi-evergreen

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 berberidifolia

Semievergreen shrub or tree. Native to California chaparral from 300–5,000-ft. elevation. Dense growth to 6–15 ft. tall and wide. Leaves are variable in shape, with wavy edges; may have smooth, toothed, or spiny margins. Medium green on top, gray-green below. Oval acorns to 1 in. long enclosed by up to one-half in knobby cap with spiral pattern. Good unthirsty clipped hedge, background shrub, or informal screen. Has long been confused with Q. dumosa, which is native only near the Southern California coast.

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