Oregon white oak profile

10 Feb

Quercus garryana is a special tree because it is the only native oak found north of Eugene, OR. It lives on the west side of the Cascades, primarily in the Willamette, Umpqua and Rogue River Valleys, and along the Gorge. It also occupies a similar range in Washington and British Columbia, and grows up into the foothills in California.

It is a very drought tolerant and slow growing tree. Historically, frequent low-intensity fires have maintained its dominance on oak savannas throughout its range. Because it is fire resistant when mature and a vigorous sprouter at all ages, it is adapted to thrive in this type of fire regime, which also keeps the seedlings of faster growing species at bay. Native Americans set fires in these habitats to promote the growth of important food sources like the Camas lily, prized for its starchy bulbs (and pictured with oaks above).

To identify this tree, first look for thick, glossy, pinnately-lobed leaves that are darker on top (1) and lighter below (2) and have rounded lobes (rather than bristle-tipped); the lobes are deeply parted and come in almost to the midrib (3). Also helpful to find: acorns with shallow caps (4, 5) and light-colored, scaly bark (6). The leaves may have fine reddish-to-yellowish hairs on the underside, and there may be galls present under leaves or on twigs.

Unfortunately, a century of fire exclusion has allowed faster growing trees like Oregon ash and Douglas-fir to invade oak savannas and dominate. I will be posting about fire regimes in much greater detail in the near future. And while the wood of this tree warps easily and does not lend itself to commercial usage, grazing, urbanization and non-native invaders also threaten oak savannas.

These areas are currently a critical habitat because they host a long list of rare or threatened species including the Propertius duskywing butterfly, Trillium parviflorum, sharp-tailed snakes, the Lewis woodpecker, and many more. Because these open woodlands also promote patches of everything from dense canopy to open grassland, they support a greater diversity of plants and animals than conifer forest could support.

This tree also hosts Phoradendron flavescens mistletoe and the galls of Cynipidae family wasps. In Canada, it is susceptible to the gypsy moth, the oak leaf phylloxera, and the gall wasp Neuroterus saltatorius — all non-native pests. On the other hand, it has not proven susceptible to the virulent invasive sudden oak death.

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3 Responses to “Oregon white oak profile”

  1. theevolutionofeating February 16, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    You are such a great writer. You manage to be both technical and conversational at the same time. Nice work!

    • xylem_up February 20, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

      Thank you! I feel much the same about your blog; you can give really detailed information on technique, written as if you’re just hanging out in the kitchen with me explaining things.

  2. click here May 28, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

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