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Plant type

Tree

Size

60 - 100 ft Tall
50 ft Wide

Form

Rounded, Upright Columnar

Growth rate

Fast, Moderate

Dormancy

Winter Deciduous

Fragrance

Pleasant

Color

Yellow, Cream, Green

Flowering season

Spring, Winter

Common uses

Deer resistant

The Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) grows into the largest of North American oaks. It ranges over the hot interior valleys of California where there is a water table within reach of the roots.

Valley Oaks grow quickly, reaching 20 feet in 5 years, and 40 feet in 10 years, and up to 60 feet in 20 years. Mature specimens may attain an age of up to 600 years. Its thick, ridged bark is characteristic and evokes alligator hide. The sturdy trunk of the Valley oak may exceed two to three meters in diameter and its stature may approach 100 feet in height.

The branches have an irregular, spreading and arching appearance that produces a profound leafless silhouette in the clear winter sky. During autumn, leaves turn a yellow to light orange color but become brown during mid- to late fall.

In advancing age, the branches assume a drooping characteristic. Its pewter-colored rippled bark adds to the attractive aesthetic of this species.

Typically, leaves are five to ten centimeters in length and are roundly and deeply lobed. The leaf width is approximately one half its length. Each leaf is matte green, with a pale green underside; moreover, the leaf is covered with abundant soft fuzz, yielding an almost velvety feeling. When a fresh leaf is rubbed or broken, an aromatic scent is exuded, evoking a forest odor. The wood is a dull brown approaching yellow.

Over most of the range, acorns fall in October. A variety of mammals and birds eat them, including the Acorn Woodpecker, Western Scrub Jay, Yellow-billed Magpie, and California Ground Squirrel. Like many oaks, Valley Oaks can tolerate wildfires. Although smaller individuals may be top-killed, most resprout from the root crown.

Valley oak tolerates cool wet winters and hot dry summers but requires abundant water. It is most abundant in rich deep soils of valley floors below 600 meters in elevation but can also be found at elevations up to 5,600 ft.

Valley oak is found in dense riparian forests, open foothill woodlands and valley savannas. Commonly associated trees are Coast Live Oak, Interior Live Oak, Blue oak, Black Walnut, California Sycamore and Ghost Pine. The Valley Oak is widely distributed in the California Central Valley and many smaller valleys such as the San Fernando Valley.

Because of its eventual size, it may not be appropriate for the average residential garden. Best not to provide irrigation within 30 feet of established valley oaks. They'll often absorb too much water, causing limbs to break off.

They are messy but beautiful. Best to plant near a water source.

Sun

Full Sun

Water

Low, Moderate

Summer irrigation

Max 2x / month once established

Ease of care

Easy

Soil drainage

Medium

Soil description

Prefers deep, rich soil but can utilize other soils if moisture is sufficient.
Soil PH: 6.0 - 8.0

Propagation

For propagating by seed: Fresh seeds sow in fall outdoors or stratify to hold for spring sowing (USDA Forest Service 1974).

Sunset Zones

1, 2, 3, 4*, 5*, 6*, 7*, 8*, 9*, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22, 23, 24

Other oaks (Quercus spp.), Black Walnut (Juglans spp.), Gray Pine (Pinus sabiniana), Oregon Ash (Fraxinus latifolia), Boxelder (Acer negundo), California Wild Rose (Rosa californica), Blackberry (Rubus spp.), Willow (Salix spp.), and native grasses.

Box Elder

Acer negundo

Oregon Ash

Fraxinus latifolia

Foothill Pine

Pinus sabiniana

California Wildrose

Rosa californica

Birds
Caterpillars
Pollinators

Butterflies and moths supported

17 confirmed and 151 likely

Confirmed Likely

Abagrotis baueri

Sallow Button

Acleris hastiana

Acrobasis caliginella

Acrobasis comptella

Site type

Inland valley floors, shallow slopes throughout most of the state; it is one of the key species of foothill woodland.

Plant communities

Foothill Woodland,