Saturday, February 22, 2014

coast live oak ~ 02/22/14 ~ Fort Ord


I don't know why I keep getting tripped up on coast live oaks, as is evidenced by my past posts March 20, 2011 and March 11, 2012.  In the comments section, Cindy @ Dipper Ranch has provided quick tips on oaks, but my mental block around trees keeps me from remembering most of it.  I now know to look for "underarm hair" on the underside of leaves.  It seems to me that our CA native oaks have a greater degree of variation within spp. than between spp.  Every time I think I've found a different sp. of evergreen oak, it ends up being a coast live oak.  Ugh.  These two sets of photos are two trees growing about 20 feet apart.

Underarm hair?  Check.  But, look how smooth the trunk is, akin to how smooth the leaves are with very few points on the leaf margin.  I know the number of points can be variable, but the trunk, too?  Can anyone confirm for me that this is coast live oak?  Cindy?

For my future reference, and maybe yours, too:
California Oak Identification @ University of California Hastings Reserve
California Native Oaks @ Las Pilitas Nursery 
Oak Identification @ University of California Cooperative Extension, Marin County


randomtruth said...

Here's my oak wisdom for you...

1. oaks are incestual bastards. Seriously and technically. Within clades (red oak, white oak), they seem to hybridize pretty easily, and as a result a species in one area might not look the same on average as the same species in a different area. For example, I think the black oaks along the SC Mtns have wimpy leaves when compared to the ones in the Sierra Nevada.

2. certain oak species, including coast live oak, are easier to end up on, than key to. By this I mean - if you learn the gestalt of blue, black, valley, leather, interior and canyon, which are all much more defined (imho), then often you can look at a coast live and say "well - it's not ...., so must be coast live." Btw - you'll note I mixed decid and evergreen. That's on purpose. Down in the Tehachapis, the blue oaks and the Tucker oaks are so hybridized that the blues don't even drop their leaves in winter.

3. look for galls. The wasps know their oak species so galls are often tells. Strawberry gall on a small oak that's not leather? - must be scrub oak. Urchin gall? - must be blue...

I've also heard there are ways to taste differences in their mycorrhiza, but we'll save that for the advanced course... ;)

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Hey Ken, thanks for mentioning the clades. I never heard of them before... I just added another reference link to Marin County above. Much of my information is based on what I can find locally, and I forget there is much more available up there. Coast live oak is the default oak sp. down here, so I don't get much practice on learning the gestalt. And, I actually can't distinguish between many evergreen and deciduous oaks if they're leafed out and crisped up.

Seriously, who's going around tasting oak roots?

Cindy said...

I've got nothing to match the wit and wisdom of RT.

Cindy said...

Well, okay, I will confirm those are coast live oaks. In my area in the Santa Cruz Mountains, it is the only oak with tufts of hairs in the angle between the veins on the underside of the leaf. Probably the same in Monterey Bay too. I am not sure about the rest of the world because it is a big oak world out there. I have often admired your Monterey Bay coast live oaks with their amazingly smooth and silver banded trunks as opposed to the craggy, dark gray bark of old coast live oaks elsewhere. Fast growing, mild weather, wait . . . it's the summer marine layer! (fascinating CNPS presentation last night about microniches for special manzanitas and ceaonothus). When it comes to oaks, the best way to initially acquaint yourself is to compare the color and hair conditions of the upper versus lower surfaces of the leaf. Later we can talk about elevations. That's all I got for now but remember, your smooth, silvery coastal coast live oaks are perfect for hugging.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Thanks for commenting on the oaks, Cindy. The trunk on the second set above is incredibly distinctive, almost like a bandage dress, and I've only ever seen it at this one Fort Ord spot. All the other coast live oaks around here are more or less craggy... except for a set at Palo Corona which look like they've been dipped in a light pink/grey candy coating ( - it's pinker looking in real life). I wonder if soil fungus plays a part in how textural the bark ends up being.