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Plant type



20 - 120 ft Tall
35 ft Wide


Upright, Rounded, Upright Columnar

Growth rate

Moderate, Slow


Winter Deciduous




Yellow, Cream, Green

Flowering season

Spring, Winter

Common uses

Bank stabilization, Deer resistant

The California Black Oak gets its name from the dark bark color of mature trees. It has distinctive, deeply lobed leaves that turn brilliant shades of yellow and orange in the fall. It is a large deciduous tree that can grow up to 80 feet tall. It also has a large, spreading root system.

Black Oak acorns are an important food source for a wide range of wildlife, including birds, deer, squirrels, and other mammals. It is also a host plant for butterflies and moths. It is a drought-tolerant tree with low moisture requirements. Black Oak grows best in acidic soil.


Full Sun, Partial Shade, Deep Shade


Low, Moderate

Summer irrigation

Max 2x / month once established

Ease of care


Cold tolerance

Tolerates cold to 0° F

Soil drainage


Soil description

Occurs in many soil types. Prefers acidic soil.. Tolerates serpentine soil..
Soil PH: 5.0 - 8.0


Sterilize any cutting tools before and after pruning to prevent infections and avoid spreading Sudden Oak Death


By acorns. For propagating by seed: Fresh seeds sow in fall outdoors or stratify to hold for spring sowing. If started indoors or in glasshouse, stratify first for 1-2 mos. (USDA Forest Service 1974).

Sunset Zones

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6*, 7*, 8, 9, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17, 18*, 19, 20, 21

Often found with Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa), White Fir (Abies concolor), Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) and Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana). Understory plants include Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus, Hummingbird Sage Salvia spathacea), Larkspur (Delphinium spp.), Manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.), Gooseberries (Ribes spp.), and ferns

Balsam Fir

Abies concolor

Ponderosa Pine

Pinus ponderosa


Butterflies and moths supported

8 confirmed and 171 likely

Confirmed Likely

Abagrotis baueri

Sallow Button

Acleris hastiana

Acrobasis caliginella

Acrobasis comptella

Site type

Slopes and valleys between 2, 000 and 8, 000 ft. in the Coast Ranges, Transverse Range, Peninsular Range, and lower elevations of the Sierra, where it is found as part of deciduous oak woodland, mixed evergreen forest, or other woodland/forest type

Plant communities

Mixed Evergreen Forest, Northern Oak Woodland, Yellow Pine Forest,