Valley oak and coast live oak are the two most magnificent oaks of California. Valley oak likely receives more notoriety. It stands taller, and defoliates to expose its sculptural form through winter. Coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia, is almost as grand within its evergreen foliage. It can grow as tall and broad as seventy-five feet, with trunks wider than ten feet.
Coast live oak is notably variable in the wild. Exposed and solitary trees can grow bigger and older than grove trees. They can live for many centuries, and hang their canopies to the ground. Grove trees may not live half as long, and tend to shed shaded lower growth. Solitary trees are likely to survive fire. Grove trees within forests are less likely to survive.
Coast live oak is more appealing in the wild than within home gardens. Regularly messy debris is mildly herbicidal to some delicate plants below. It also stains hardscapes. Trees that matured without irrigation are very susceptible to rot with new irrigation. Landscapes around such trees must therefore demand very little. Roots are very sensitive to damage.