• Sitting…looking up at oaks

    by  • May 6, 2011 • Plant Profiles, Sierra Foothills • 5 Comments

    The Oaks of the Sierra foothills

    “I am sitting with a philosopher in the garden; he says again and again ‘I know that that’s a tree’, pointing to a tree that is near us. Someone else arrives and hears this, and I tell him: ‘This fellow isn’t insane. We are only doing philosophy.”
    — Ludwig Wittgenstein,  on Certainty

    You can sit nowhere in Sierra Foothill Garden without seeing an oak. The mighty oak. These are the three varieties we have.  I say the word ‘have’ loosely because I feel I’m here temporarily, as Indian Guy from “Ernest goes to Camp’ says “Who can own a tree? ” (Don’t these two quotes prove that I am well cultured?)

    Interior Live Oak

    Interior Live Oaks Quercus wislizenii

    Interior Live Oaks Quercus wislizenii, the most common oak here.

    The Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizenii, is one of the red oaks, living mostly in the lower elevations of the Sierra Nevada. The leaves are oval and toothed and the flowers are catkins that hang down from the branch tips. They are often shrubby and when cut down, will regrow thickly from the base.  In April the catkins drop powdery yellow dust over all things near it and can cause allergies.  Also in April the oak worms spin webs all through the branches, reflecting the sun.

    Quercus wislizenii Interior Live Oak leaves and acorn

    Quercus wislizenii Interior Live Oak leaves and acorn

     

    Looking through the gnarled trunks of a live oak

    Looking through the gnarled trunks of a live oak

     

    Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizenii, evergreen, here in December

    Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizenii, evergreen, here in December

     

    California Black Oak

    California Black Oak Quercus kelloggii

    California Black Oak Quercus kelloggii, the tallest and most colorful in Fall.

    California Black Oak , Quercus kelloggii, is also in the red oak family and has leaves that are deeply lobed, pointed and sometimes as large as your hand. Taller in size and more upright than the Interior oak, the Black Oak is 30-70 ft in height and deciduous, making it very desirable in the garden because it turns bright gold, orange and red in the fall. The large leaves of the California Black Oak Quercus kelloggii, turn yellow in November.

    These leaves are from a Black oak, perfect for preserving

    These leaves are from a Black oak, perfect for preserving

    Oracle oaks

    Quercus morehus, Oracle Oak, is common here, but the most rare of oaks in California

    Quercus morehus, Oracle Oak, is common here, but one of the most rare of oaks in California

    Oracle oaks, Quercus morehus, only occurs in areas where there are lots of one of the parent species and not many of the other parent and between Oak ‘sub-tribes’ that are related to each other. The leaf looks like a cross between the big lobed Black Oak leaf and the small, sometimes serrated Live Oak leaf. It is an interesting occurrence and they are beautiful trees. They are deciduous and turn a mellow gold in Fall.

    An Oracle oak grows at the base of three tall pines

    An Oracle oak grows at the base of three tall pines

     

    Oracle oak leaves

    Oracle oak leaves

     

    The Oracle oak is the last to turn yellow in December

    The Oracle oak is the last to turn yellow in December

    More on this rare oak:  Discovering and identifying the Oracle Oak

     

    A. California Black Oak (Q. kelloggii), a tall, deciduous tree; B. Interior Live Oak (Q. wislizenii var. frutescens), a large, evergreen shrub; C. Oracle Oak (Q. x morehus)

    A. California Black Oak (Q. kelloggii), a tall, deciduous tree; B. Interior Live Oak (Q. wislizenii var. frutescens), a large, evergreen shrub; C. Oracle Oak (Q. x morehus)

    ***

    This post about the oak species on our property here in the California foothills, is an opportunity to show Desiree, of Driftwood Ramblings, that I do sit in my garden and in fact have a very comfy spot, here under the oaks. We took an old redwood chair and ottoman and put a camping mattress, one of those flip-out ones, on top. Covered with a striped Army sheet blanket and thrift shop pillow shams, it’s great for collapsing on.

    I have lunch out here most nice days. If I come out without Maggie seeing, and when she does notice, she bangs on the screen door and causes such a fit that Tractor Man has to let her out.  She usually wanders away when left on her own outside and we’re not keeping track, but not when I have a sandwich!

    If you happen to like using flea market finds, like this old lounge shown here, and other junkola as garden art and decoration, you may like this FB page Flea Market Gardening. Check it out, won’t you?

     

    ...looking up

    …looking up.

    ***

    More foothill oaks…

    Blue Oaks

    Blue Oaks, or Quercus douglasii, are endemic to California, only found here in our state and can commonly be found in the lower elevations of the Madera County foothills about 2000 feet, but can appear as high as 4000 feet in some areas of California. The bluish color is caused by a waxy coating on its leaves and you can easily see the blue among the yellow-green of the Interior oaks along Hwy 49 through Ahwahnee. A deciduous tree, the Blue oak was highly valued by local native tribes for their nutritious acorns.

    Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii, are found along Hwy 49 and do have a blue cast

    Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii, are found along Hwy 49 and do have a blue cast

    The Blue Oak is very hardy with tough, thick bark that allows it to withstand drought and prolonged temperatures over 100°. They don’t like to be shaded, so won’t be found as understory trees like the Oracle oak.

     

    Valley Oaks

    Valley Oak, Quercus lobata, are the wide majestic oaks, you see in the lower elevations before reaching the valley

    Valley Oak, Quercus lobata, are the wide majestic oaks, you see in the lower elevations before reaching the valley

    Valley Oaks, Quercus lobata, AKA White Oak, Swamp Oak, Roble Oak and California White Oak are also deciduous and is the fastest growing of our California oaks, growing up to 20 feet a year, with plenty of water, to 70 feet and as wide.  You’ll notice them growing thickly on the north sides of each foothill throughout the cattle county of eastern Madera County. Their branches dip as low as the ground as they offer shelter to wise livestock.

     

    Quercus lobata or Valley Oak leaves

    Quercus lobata or Valley Oak leaves

    Notes:

    For more on the trees here, see Trees and Shrubs in the Existing Native Plants tab.
    For what to plant under oaks and pines see this post.

    About

    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    5 Responses to Sitting…looking up at oaks

    1. May 6, 2011 at 5:58 pm

      Now that’s a wonderful world of existence all in five words.. “Sitting…looking up at Oaks”. I’m impressed with the blogger who can title a post so evocatively. Sometimes when I am supposedly doing something on the land, this blogger is really just gazing awestruck at some tree or mountain. Or … as described…. “outstanding in his field.”

    2. May 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm

      Love the oaks! I was up in the foothills today and saw nice little groves of them, bouncing back surprisingly well after having been burned in 2003. There were some heated debates about plant IDs among some rabid botany types along on today’s trip, and one of them might have argued against Wittgenstein’s friend knowing the ID of a plant, even something as general as “tree.” Botanists and philosophers–they’re both a pretty argumentative bunch. But you’re the one who’s really got life figured out, out there under the oaks…

    3. May 9, 2011 at 9:08 pm

      Kerry, thank you for your extremely kind comment. I so enjoy the image of you “outstanding in your field.” The magazines I take out to the lounge are unread, as I daydream, I guess, or just refrain from thinking at all.

      James, I had to get used them, so stickery and scratchy when you’re trimming them, and there was so much of that to do, but now I love them, too. I’m flattered that you think I have anything figured out.
      Ah, the experts! Have you ever seen Laurie Anderson’s ‘Only an Expert’? It’s an interesting view of experts and I never forgot it once I heard it. http://youtu.be/bvhfSH9CbCw

    4. May 16, 2011 at 9:42 am

      Hi Sue! Trying to catch up a little on all the posts I’ve missed in the last while. I’m SO SORRY I am so late with reading this post…especially since it was done somewhat in my honour 😉 It’s just that my life has ceased to be…my days are consumed with busyness of an altogether different sort…in short, life continues to be busy with these two pups now entering the teething phase…they require constant supervision. We’ll eventually ‘get there’ with the housetraining etc. but somedays the progress seems slow 🙂 I was drinking my ice cold cup of coffee after working tirelessly in the garden yesterday…and guess who came to mind! Yes…YOU! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to drink my cold cups of coffeee again without being instantly reminded of you 😉

      I’m hugely impressed by your ‘cultured’ side 😉 and loved seeing and learning about the three types of oaks you have. I am SO IMPRESSED with your wonderful leisurely daybed, set out so ostentatiously with all its drapes 🙂 I’d want to spend most of the day there, enjoying the majesty of those splendid oaks!!! So glad to see you really were doing so (those crossed over ankles lying back on the comfy bed have given me proof that you do, indeed, take rests! And I can see Maggie approves fully!!!

      The bark on the last oak is magnificent! What an impressive giant gazing upward into it’s huge spreading branches. In way, it’s sad knowing our trees will be around so much longer after we’ve departed…I think of all those seasons we’ll miss being together! Your garden is SO PEACEFUL, Sue! I know it took years of back-breaking effort to get it to be what it is, today…but, wow, wasn’t it worth it! Just remember to enjoy it (for me) EVERY DAY!!!!!

      Big hug,
      Des xoxo

      • May 16, 2011 at 7:24 pm

        Thanks, Desiree, …I’m glad you have a chance to catch up. I know the puppies keep you busy. You had asked about the bark of the oak tree once so I hope this shows it well enough. I thoroughly recommend a nap spot in the garden! I’m impressed by all your projects as well. Enjoy your cold coffee…hahaha now I know you’re thinking of one of you friends… me!

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