Plant FinderPlant Finder Graphic
Zones 5, 7-10, 14-24
Full Sun
Regular Water

Quercus durata

Leather Oak, Nuttall’s Scrub Oak
Evergreen, Shrubs


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 durata

This evergreen shrub is native to northern Coast Ranges to San Luis Obispo area and to Sierra Nevada foothills, south to San Gabriel Mountains. In the wild is mostly confined to serpentine soil (a kind of nutrient-poor soil). Dense, rounded growth to 10 ft. tall and 8–12 ft. wide. Bare and somewhat leggy to 3–5 ft. above ground, 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 are variable: 1/2–1 in. long, often almost cylindrical, half-enclosed in a warty, bowl-shaped cap.

You Might Also Like...

Quercus berberidifolia

Semievergreen shrub or tree. Native to California chaparral from 300–5,000-ft. elevation. Dense ...

Quercus durata

This evergreen shrub is native to northern Coast Ranges to San Luis Obispo area and to Sierra Nevada f...

Aesculus californica

Native to dry slopes and canyons below 4,000-ft. elevation in coast ranges and Sierra Nevada foothills...

Find Your Sunset Climate Zone

Find Your Sunset Climate Zone

View Maps Learn More