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Canyon Live Oak
Quercus chrysolepis
About Canyon Live Oak (Quercus chrysolepis) Nurseries Show All Photos Canyon live oak is a species of evergreen oak that is found in the southwestern part of North America, notably in the California Coast Ranges. It is the most wide-spread oak in the state. Its ultimate size and shade are determined by its location within the state. This tree is often found near creeks and drainage swales growing in moist cool microhabitats. Its leaves are a glossy dark green on the upper surface with prominent spines; a further rapid identification arises from the leaves of Canyon live oak being geometrically flat. They are often sympatric with Quercus agrifolia and several other oak species. Fossil data supports a much wider distribution throughout the western United States during the early Holocene period. Native Americans used the acorns of this species as a food staple, after leaching of the tannins; moreover, its roasted seed is a coffee substitute. After forest fires, Canyon live oak regenerates vigorously by basal sprouting, and the clonal diversity of this species has been shown to be high. Alternate common names for this taxon are Canyon oak and "Golden-Cup Oak".
Plant Description
Plant Type
Tree, Shrub

Max. Height
30 - 90 ft (9.1 - 27.4 m)

Max. Width
30 - 60 ft (9.1 - 18.3 m)

Upright, Rounded, Upright Columnar

Growth Rate
Moderate, Slow


Flower Color
Yellow, Cream, Green

Flowering Season
Spring, Winter

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Because this tree is so widely distributed around the state, its natural setting can vary considerably. It is most often found in foothills and canyons up to 9,000 ft., sometimes on north facing slopes or among boulder fields. Climates varies from very wet to semi-arid

Sun, Part Shade, Shade

Elevation ?
7' - 14092'

Annual Precip. ?
5.1" - 155.1"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 6.01"

Coldest Month ?
10.8° F - 56.7° F

Hottest Month ?
34.1° F - 81.1° F

Humidity ?
0.14 vpd - 34.09 vpd

Soil Description
Found in a wide variety of soils in various parts of the state

Soil PH
5.0 - 7.0


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to -15° F

Sunset Zones ?
1, 2, 3, 4*, 5*, 6*, 7*, 8, 9*, 10, 11, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24

Companion Plants
Because it is found over such a large part of the state, companion plants can vary considerably. Often found in mixed woodlands with Madrone (Arbutus menziesii), Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica), Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Bigcone Spruce (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa), Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa), Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi), and Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana).

Wildlife Attracted
Many insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals are attracted to oaks. 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 ?
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
1x/month, 2x/month
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Deep Organic, Organic with Rocks

Propagation ?
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 .5-2 mos. (USDA Forest Service 1974).

Common uses
Bank Stabilization, Deer Resistant, Bird Gardens, Butterfly Gardens

Other Names
Botanical Names
Quercus chrysolepis var. nana

Common Names
Canyon Oak, Gold-cup Live Oak, Gold-cup Oak, Golden-cup 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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