This will be an homage to the Oaks of California.  I love ’em.

Spring trees at sunset. California Valley Oak, Quercus lobata. Deciduous tree.
Spring trees at sunset, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata in the California Coastal Range

Thank you to The Cultural Landscape Foundation for inspiring me to showcase Oaks, a vital part of the cultural landscape of California.

There are more than 30 towns and cities in California that begin with Oak, and while too many Oaks have been cut down to make way for houses, there are nevertheless many, many places where oak woodlands are preserved, and landscape architects need little inspiration but to go to the edge of town.

 

California Coastal Range with Oak trees (Quercus lobata) and rolling hills on Mt. Burdell State Park, Novato, California
California Coastal Range with Oak trees (Quercus lobata) and rolling hills on Mt. Burdell State Park, Novato, California

Oaks (Quercus species) are native across the entire Northern Hemisphere but in California they are icons of the most habitable landscapes, especially here in the rolling Coastal hills where all these photos were taken, near my home in Northern California. They grow all across the state and entire habitats are described by their presence: from Coastal Oak Woodland, Valley Oak Woodland, to Montane Hardwood Forest.

Decaying Oak in Morning Fog on Cherry Hill
Decaying Oak in morning fog in California Coastal Range

The oaks are noble, tough, quietly superior to every other plant in the many varied woodland plant communities where they are found. They are perfectly adapted to our summer-dry climate and given some space can be adapted to every garden type. I have 10 is a one acre garden around my house.

California native Oak, flowering catkins, Rucsh Creek Open Space
California native Oaks in spring

Yes, they do get large and will never be recommended as street trees, but I would argue every suburban lot could handle one tree. And what a great benefit that would be, to restore habitats, promote sustainable gardening, and reaffirm our connection to the native landscape.

Cherry Hill Novato with tule fog n morning light

They are quite obviously adapted to our summer-dry landscape, where dry summers are not drought, it’s normal. The deep-rooted trees get a long drink in the wet winters and march right through summer basking in sun, happy in the heat.

California native Valley Oak tree - Quercus lobata
California native Valley Oak tree – Quercus lobata

I must say I particularly like the deciduous Oaks and the fall color.

 

Looking up at Quercus kelloggii, California Black Oak tree with leaf pattern in fall color silhouette
Quercus kelloggii, California Black Oak tree with leaf pattern in fall color silhouette
LAYERS -California native Oak, Quercus lobata with fall leaf color and lichen on branches, art
California native Oak, Quercus lobata with fall leaf color and lichen on branches

The autumn color of our California Oaks does not match the deciduous forests of New England but in the landscape with a few other deciduous trees they can easily dominate the photographer’s eye. I particularly like walking the hills in autumn where I can look up a slope and see them silhouetted against the sky.

Panorama of Quercus kelloggii, California Black Oak trees in autumn on Pinheiro Fire Road, on ridge of Rush Creek Open Space, Marin County
Panorama of Quercus kelloggii, California Black Oak trees in autumn

In the springtime some of our most spectacular wildflower displays are in the oak woodlands before they leaf out, and sometimes wild mustard turns the understory yellow.

Yellow mustard spring wildflowers in Sonoma County California field with dormant Oak trees (Quercus lobata)
Yellow mustard spring wildflowers in Sonoma County California field with Oak s

And when the grasses begin to tun emerald green from winter rains the Oaks make patterns on the green canvas, their great trunks and branches are dancing sculptures in the landscape.

Oak trees (Quercus lobata) on Mt. Burdell State Park, Novato, California
Oak trees (Quercus lobata) on Mt. Burdell State Park, Novato, California

There are times in the spring, just as the Oaks have leafed out and back light makes them glow, that anyone  lucky enough to be hiking among them will l feel they are in a magical landscape. And in truth, the kingdom of oaks is a magical place.

Misty morning oaks in rolling California hills, Cherry Hill, Novato
Misty morning oaks in rolling California hills, Cherry Hill, Novato

 

4 COMMENTS

    • A reincarnated Ent ? I only wish… Sudden Oak Death the Phytophthora ramorum fungus is indeed a problem and Marin County is nearly ground zero. Particularly the Live Oaks, Q. agrifolia and Black Oaks Q. kelloggii are affected and I am having mine treated tomorrow. I see dead ones every day on my walks

  1. I agree…you’re at LEAST an honorary Ent. Stunning photos of the miracle of oaks. We have about 30 on our 1.3 acre property. Some had to be removed for the health of the remaining, and it took me years to accept the loss. I’ve worked hard in my community to instill a love of nature and oaks by being on the planning commission for 10 years. Right after I left, the council gutted our painstakingly-created tree ordinance. A gut blow. We all carry on…

    • Thanks Janet – Losing any tree is a loss but to lose the due a planning commission change seems especially sad. Carry on….

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