Tex-Mex Oaks Ideal
for California’s Changing Climate
By Wendy Proud,
Mountain States Wholesale Nursery
California Sales Representative
Of all the trees, oaks have a mystique like no other. Their symbolic form and grace continue to captivate scientists, naturalists, conservation groups, advocates, concerned citizens and gardeners alike. Our appreciation continues as we learn more each year about new oaks that can adapt and continue the legacy. They speak a quiet, familiar language that comforts us—the simple pleasure of rolling beautiful striped acorns around in the palm of your hand after a hike, or finding them months later in the car after falling out of your pocket on the ride home. Special moments with this diverse genus leave us wanting more, no matter how we became hooked.
Texas and Northern Mexico are the geographic location for a few lesser-known oaks that are poised to do well throughout California, especially as our temperatures continue to climb. They are amazingly adaptable and perhaps closely aligned, exhibiting very similar acorns and leaves. (The small distance between species gives us good reason for thorough record keeping and tagging.) Photo: Andrew Proud
Give three beauties a try! They’re all available now at Mountain States Wholesale Nursery:
Quercus gravesii (Chisos Red Oak/Graves Oak)
Native to southwest Texas and into Mexico, this oak grows native at elevations of about 5000-6000 feet, with vibrant red fall color in habitat. Fast growing for an oak, it will tolerate lower elevations with some supplemental irrigation but will likely not have as colorful of a fall show. With deeply lobed leaves, it will hold its leaves late into the season and grow to an eventual 40 feet tall by 35 feet wide.
Quercus canbyi (Canby Oak)
Native to southwest Texas and northeast Mexico, this mostly evergreen oak was first recognized by and brought into the trade by famed Texas plantsman Lynn Lowery. It has a pyramidal form in youth and an open irregular shape at maturity, 40–50 feet. The leaves are 6–8 inches long and 2–3 inches wide with heavily serrated edges, and are a dark, glossy green with the petioles often reddish in color. Fall color can vary, with the previous year’s leaves often persisting until new growth emerges. They have been successfully grown as far north as Springfield, IL., and have thrived in the intense Phoenix summers.
Quercus muhlenbergii (Chinquapin Oak)
Native to west Texas, this deciduous tree has large oval green leaves with wavy margins and lovely orange to bronze tones in the fall. It grows more rapidly than other species in the low deserts, to about 30 feet tall and wide and does not seem to experience leaf scorch in the summers. Plant in full sun and well-drained soils. It also thrives in lawn areas and is extremely cold hardy.
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