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Nuttall's Scrub Oak Back to Plant Page
Quercus dumosa

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About Nuttall's Scrub Oak (Quercus dumosa) Quercus dumosa is a species of plant in the Fagaceae family. This shrub/small tree goes by the common name Coastal sage scrub oak. It is found in Mexico and the United States. It is threatened by habitat loss. The species Quercus dumosa lends its name to the eponymous plant community Quercus dumosa chaparral, in which Coastal sage scrub oak and toyon often co-dominate. It is easily confused with other scrub oaks such as Quercus berberidifolia, with which it may hybridize.

This plant is an evergreen shrub growing 1 to 3 meters tall from a large, deep root network. The leaves have spiny or toothed edges. The fruit is an acorn up to 1.5 centimeters wide. Some individuals produce large crops of acorns, and some produce very few fruits. The acorns are dispersed by gravity as they fall from the tree, and by animals that pick them up, such as squirrels and jays. Animals eat them immediately or cache them for later. The acorns tend to germinate easily. Reproduction via seed generally occurs only in very moist years.

This oak grows primarily in sandy soils such as sandstone near the coast. Its habitat is often chaparral. This oak sprouts vigorously from its stump and root crown after wildfire and develops a large canopy within a few years after a fire event. It sometimes codominates with Ceanothus species as early as four years after a fire. This oak also does well in the absence of fire.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Tree, Shrub

Max. Height
3.3 - 10 ft (1 - 3 m)

Max. Width
8 - 10 ft (2.4 - 3.0 m)

Upright, Mounding, Spreading


Growth Rate
Very Slow, Slow


Dark green, wavy, prickly, resembling Coast Live Oak but typically smaller

Flower Color
Yellow, Cream, Green

Flowering Season
Spring, Winter

Native Status
Natural Setting
Site Type
Flats, canyon bottoms, bottoms of slopes, mesas


Elevation ?
-237' - 11310'

Annual Precip. ?
5.4" - 71.8"

Summer Precip. ?
0.13" - 2.83"

Coldest Month ?
24.6° F - 57.2° F

Hottest Month ?
45.5° F - 83.4° F

Humidity ?
0.59 vpd - 34.55 vpd

Soil Description
Often but not always found on eroded gabbro or sandstone soils

Soil Texture
Sand, Sandy Loam

Soil PH
6.0 - 8.0

Fast, Medium

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to -5° F

Companion Plants
Toyon,Del Mar Manzanita, Summer Holly, Tree Poppy

Wildlife Attracted
Several birds and many reptiles are attracted to the acorns. Many insects are attracted to Oaks generally, including the following butterflies which use Oaks as host plant: California Sister, Propertius Duskywing, Mournful Duskywing, Golden Hairstreak, and Gold-Hunter's Hairstreak.

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Seldom Used

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Organic with Rocks

Propagation ?
Can be propagated from 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 1-3 mos. (USDA Forest Service 1974).

Common uses
Bank Stabilization, Hedges, Bird Gardens, Butterfly Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
Coastal Sage Scrub Oak

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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