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Valley Oak
Quercus lobata
About Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) Nurseries Show All Photos The Valley Oak 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 produce 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 an underneath pale green appearance; 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 wild fires. 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.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
60 - 100 ft (18.3 - 30.5 m)

Max. Width
50 ft (15.2 m)

Rounded, Upright Columnar

Fragrant - Pleasant

Growth Rate
Fast, Moderate

Winter Deciduous

Flower Color
Yellow, Cream, Green

Flowering Season
Spring, Winter

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Inland valley floors, shallow slopes throughout most of the state; it is one of the key species of foothill woodland


Elevation ?
-3' - 13218'

Annual Precip. ?
6.6" - 90.7"

Summer Precip. ?
0.13" - 4.11"

Coldest Month ?
9.0° F - 56.0° F

Hottest Month ?
32.7° F - 79.3° F

Humidity ?
0.10 vpd - 27.72 vpd

Soil Description
Prefers deep, rich soil but can utilize other soils if moisture is sufficient

Soil PH
6.0 - 8.0


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

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

Wildlife Attracted
Oaks generally are very important to wildlife including birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. 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
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Rarely Used

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Deep Organic

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

Common uses
Deer Resistant, Bird Gardens, Butterfly Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
California White 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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