The biggest valley oak in the Santa Clara Valley supposedly lives next door to where I lived in town. Well, that was too far to go to get the picture I needed for the garden column next week. Another lives on the other side of the tracks.

1. Roaring Camp Railroad is out back. The Depot is out of view to the right, on the other side of Zayante Creek. The big valley oak that I got a picture of is on the left, but does not look so big from here. A few ecosystems mix here, so ponderosa pines, Douglas firs and all the riparian trees mingle with the coast live oaks and redwoods. However, I doubt that valley oaks are native.

2. Rhody stayed home. These grates on the pedestrian catwalk on the bridge are not intended for small paws. Some of those trees down there are about thirty feet tall! Most are white alder.

3. Riparian trees are close enough for pictures from a pedestrian bridge just downstream. That foliage in the middle of this picture is a sycamore. However, the deteriorating bridge is closed.

4. Old valley oaks, which are native just a few miles away, seem to have been planted here; since they all are on roadsides or driveways. Whether native or introduced, they happily self sow.

5. Moss makes these sculptural limbs seem to be older than they are. This now massive valley oak was a shrubby young pup in photographs from the 1920s. It was likely planted after 1906.

6. Gnarly roots were exposed by erosion on an embankment between the big valley oak and the train tracks. I suspect that the tree was planted to shade the depot during the late afternoon.

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

28 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: Getting There Is Half The Fun

    1. Well, it actually makes sense. Even though their ecosystems almost merge here, they are endemic to completely different types of climate. Coastal redwood likes the cool foggy weather on the coast, but even with irrigation, is distressed by aridity, particularly warm aridity. It lives in the relatively damp forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains, within view of the chaparral climate of the Santa Clara Valley. Douglas fir is only a bit more tolerant of warmth and aridity, and ventures a bit farther inland. However, valley oak, although riparian, prefers warm and dry summers. The foliage mildews if too damp. It can not outgrow mildew if too cool. It is native to the Santa Clara Valley, but does not venture much beyond it. I suspect that the valley oaks here were planted during the Victorian period. The old specimens are all on roadsides or driveways. None are randomly located out in forests. Only younger trees grow randomly. As much as I like valley oak, it is not a species that I would recommend for refined gardens. It is not very appealing for the first half century or so, and then gets too big for confined spaces. Also, it does not like the regular irrigation that it would get in refined landscapes.

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    1. I work around the confluence of Bean Creek and Zayante Creek, near the confluence of Zayante Creek and the San Lorenzo River, so many of the species here are riparian. It is very different from a chaparral ecosystem! The bridge was originally just a railroad bridge, with the pedestrian bridge just downstream. However, pedestrians crossed the railroad bridge anyway, no matter how potentially dangerous it was. The grating and cables were added to one side a long time go, and then added to the other side. They are being replaced by planking on the secondary side so that bicycles can cross.

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    1. Such moss does not get so abundant in the chaparral valleys where the valley oaks mostly live. I suspect that the ambient moisture that allows the moss to proliferate like that promotes rot in aging trees, so that they will not live as long here as they do in drier climates. This particular tree might be a century old by now, but may not last much more than two or three more centuries.


    1. After all that, I did not actually post a picture of the tree. It is not really all that big like those elsewhere. It will be featured on Tuesday. Actually, the same picture will accompany an old article on Thursday as well. Another comparably big specimen in town was cut down after partially collapsing a few years ago. They do not live as long here as they do in chaparral valley climates.

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  1. Those grates wouldn’t find me walking on them with my big feet! I even avoid grates in the regular sidewalks, have ever since childhood. I was fascinated by the glass parts of sidewalks in SF when I was a child. I will assume you know what I mean! I guess they let light into the basement? While not in the same area, well, compared to an entire state, your photos remind me of the only place I miss in the bay area, Tilden. Especially the botanical garden there.

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    1. You know, there is only one glass sidewalk remaining in Los Gatos; and it is amusing to see how many do not know what it is. The basement does not actually extend underneath it. It lets light into a shallow and sloped moat like space with vertical ‘windows’ of glass bricks on the upper third or so of the basement wall below. It is all sealed up now, so the underside of the sidewalk and the inside of the windows has not been cleaned in decades. If I owned the building, I would consider the removal of the glass brick. The glass sidewalk is adequately insulated.
      The climate of Tilden is actually more similar to this situation than the chaparral climate of the Santa Clara Valley, which is much closer.


    1. It is a similar moss, but different tree. There is an Oregon white oak, which looks similar, but does not get so big. I do not know if it happens to live in the Olympic Rain Forests. It probably does not matter. With enough moss, they all sort of look the same. Some just happen to be gnarlier than others. Most trees that look like this there are bigleaf maple.


    1. Thank you. People seem to find the moss appealing. I prefer valley oaks without moss because it is how I remember them farther inland. They look almost like different trees with the moss. I think that they resemble Oregon white oaks, but larger. I am not certain because I have seen Oregon white oaks only at a distance.


    1. I feel guilty about leaving Rhody at home, but I do not want him on that bridge. We can see it from here, but he never goes to the other side unless we drive around.


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