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Valley Oak, Quercus Lobata, is an oak native to California's Central Valley and nearby areas. It is charactarized by small lobed leaves typical of oaks, enlongated acorns which are produced in abundance by older trees, and by their graceful spreading form. This tree prefers fairly wet areas, and is especially abundant near creeks and rivers. In dryer areas, these oaks are often spaced sporadically across a landscape, surrounded by grasses and wildflowers. Unlike Live Oaks, which sometimes share this habitat, Valley Oaks are deciduous.

These are some of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen. When young, they are fairly tall and narrow, vigorously growing towards the sun. As they age and mature, they spread out, extending 3 or 4 knotty branches towards the sky. These trees have a beautiful form, and are especially stunning in winter when their branches are exposed. The oldest of these oaks often consist simply of huge stumps, with a few small living parts sticking out of the end, surrounded by huge limbs which have fallen off the tree. When they die, their hard wood remains for many decades, bleached and eerie in the sun.

These trees seem to emit an aura of age and wisdom and permanence. Some have been in the area since before the Spanish ever touched the continent However, sadly, they are becoming much more rare. Fire supression has reduced seedling recruitment rate, while groundwater withdrawals have lowered the water table. Channelization and 'flood control' has prevented the life-bringing floods of the spring in most areas. However, the greatest threat by far is over-development. I don't understand how people can justify cutting down a 400 year old tree for a golf course or parking lot. I guess they just never spent any time around these trees or just don't care. I care... there are oaks in this world that I value more than some people. They certainly have more to contribute.

Valley Oaks can make an excellent landscape tree in their native range, but it is a long term investment. It will probably be 60 or 70 years before they begin acquiring the quiet grace of the older trees. Also, they dislike changes in soil level, compaction, or moisture. In areas with heavy snow, they may not survive, because snow, almost unknown in their home range, may overload and break off the branches. When placed properly, however, these are some of the most beautiful trees you can plant. And as long as conditions remain, the tree will persist long after you are gone.

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