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Quercus vaccinifolia

Huckleberry Oak
Fagaceae
Evergreen, Shrubs

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 vaccinifolia

This evergreen shrub is native to the mountains of Northern California and southern Oregon. Grows to 2–5 ft. tall and at least twice as wide, with sprawling branches. Oblong to egg-shaped, smooth-margined leaves are pointed or round at the tip; shiny gray-green above, gray with sparse golden hairs below. Round to oval acorns to 1/2 in. long have a shallow cap covered in thin, hairy scales. Useful in wild gardens and as an informal hedge.

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