Valley oak, Quercus lobata, and Coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia, which I featured here last week, are the two formerly prominent native oaks of the Santa Clara Valley. I do not know if valley oak is native to the Santa Cruz Mountains above the Santa Clara Valley. It should be; and I should know for certain. However, I am not convinced. It is a chaparral species, not a forest species. The several old specimens in the Santa Cruz Mountains are on roadsides and in other situations where they seem to have been planted intentionally. Yet, this region developed mostly after the Great Earthquake of 1906, and not much was here prior to that, but some of the valley oaks seem to be a few centuries old.

1. A different perspective of the same valley oak from last Saturday conceals major storm damage that is otherwise so prominent. This really is a grand tree, in a perfect situation.

2. Although this is not a good picture, and does not seem to show much, it demonstrates how this tree is squarely centered within this view from the old depot baggage platform.

3. From the opposite side, the trunk obscures the baggage platform. Was it planted there intentionally? If so, why was it not centered on the window or doorway of the old depot?

4. It is just coincidence that the tree is situated so ideally on the edge of an area that was formerly used for parking? It was already old when cars still had horses in front of them.

5. Valley oak is such a grand tree. As big and sculptural as this specimen is, it is perhaps a century or so younger than the other tree. It was still quite small and shrubby in 1906.

6. Even the leaves are distinguished. The leaves of the trees in my former neighborhood had rounder lobes and sinuses. I do not know if such traits are environmental or genetic.

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


13 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: Native Range?

    1. This is a rad one, but does need space. The big specimen next door to where I lived in town (in the same neighborhood where I was not supposed to grow vegetables or work in my own garden) was supposedly the biggest in the Santa Clara Valley. The apartment building was built around it by mid 1950s standards, so I am impressed that the tree is still there.


  1. Valley oak looks like a great species. It was only introduced to Europe in 1874 and has grown slowly. I started looking it up online and there’s masses of fascinating information, as there would be for many other tree species. The English oak has a similar appearance as an open grown tree and there is some debate about whether it is truly a woodland tree or would naturally grow in open areas. If only you could go back a few thousand years to check.

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    1. The valley oak lives in valleys with the coast live oak, but is not as adaptable. It lives in, as the name implies, valleys. It could certainly be native to the San Lorenzo Valley (here), but does not venture into forested mountain sides. However, the coast live oak lives everywhere in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and (again) as the name implies, all the way down to the coast. It adapts to every situation that it gets into.


      1. But how did a truck get there before the roads were there? Perhaps there were many more of them a long time ago, and those that were not in good situations were removed, leaving only those that were in good situations.

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    1. This particular species is sometimes compared to the English oak or the white oak, and is actually a species of white oak, but is grander. California is a place of horticultural extremes. Not only do the tallest trees in the World live here, but a few of the tallest tree species live here, as well as the biggest trees in the World, and the oldest living (individual) trees in the World. Valley oak is supposed to be the biggest oak species of North America. Although not taller, some specimens are bigger than the Mingo Oak of West Virginia, which is supposed to be the biggest oak in the World.


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