Characteristics of Oregon White Oak Tree (Quercus garryana) in the Wild

Quercus garryana
Oregon white oak or Oregon oak (Quercus garryana) is a species of oak whose natural habitat extends from southern California to southwestern British Columbia. It is commonly known as Oregon white oak in the United States and as Garry’s oak in Canada.

Oregon white oak grows in the Gulf Islands and southeastern Vancouver Island, from west Victoria along the east side of the island to the Campbell River area. There is also a small population along the Fraser River in mainland British Columbia. The northernmost population of Oregon white oak trees can be found just below 50°N on Savary Island, in the northern part of the Strait of Georgia.

In Washington, Oregon white oak grows on the western side of the Cascade Range, particularly in the lowlands of Puget Sound, the northeastern Olympic Peninsula, Whidbey Island, the Chehalis river valley, and the San Juan Islands. It also grows in the foothills of the southeastern Cascades and along the Columbia River Gorge.

In Oregon, it grows on the western side of the Cascade Range, especially in the Willamette, Umpqua, and Rogue River valleys, and along the Columbia River Gorge.

In California, Oregon white oak grows in the foothills of the Siskiyou and Klamath Mountains, Northern California’s Coast Ranges, and the western slopes of the Cascades.

The Oregon white oak variety (Quercus garryana var. semota) is also found growing in the Sierra Nevada and Coastal Ranges as far south as Los Angeles County.

The Oregon white oak is the only oak tree native to British Columbia, and one of two oaks native to western Canada.

 

Characteristics of Oregon White Oak Leaf

Quercus garryana Leaf
Source: flickr.com/Paco Garin

Oregon white oak is a deciduous tree. The leaves are 5-15 cm long and 2-8 cm wide, with 3-7 lobes deep on each side.

 

Characteristics of Oregon White Oak Flower

Quercus garryana Flower
Source: flickr.com/Flora Orientalis Cascades

The flowers are catkins.

 

Characteristics of Oregon White Oak Fruit

Quercus garryana Fruit
Source: flickr.com/Flora Orientalis Cascades

The fruit is small, 2-3 cm long (rarely 4 cm) and 1.5-2 cm wide, with shallow, scaly cups.

The slightly sweet (but possibly unpalatable) fruit is consumed by wildlife and livestock. David Douglas notes that bears eat them.

 

Characteristics of Oregon White Oak Tree

Quercus garryana Tree
Source: flickr.com/A.Davey

This tree can grow into a medium-sized tree up to 20-25 meters high or form a bush 3-5 meters high. The bark is dark brown, golden brown, to almost white. The wood is hard, heavy, and ring-porous.

Oregon white oak is very attractive to woodworkers but can be difficult to use in woodworking without warping and cracking. Historically, its oak wood was not considered to have significant commercial value.

There are currently three recorded varieties of Oregon white oak, namely:

  • Quercus Garryana var. garryana – grows as a tree to a height of 20-30 meters. Its native habitat is in southern British Columbia along the Cascades to the California Coast Ranges.
  • Quercus Garryana var. breweri – grows as a shrub up to 5 meters tall and has velvety leaves underneath. Its original habitat is in Siskiyou Mountains.
  • Quercus Garryana var. semota – grows as a shrub up to 5 meters tall and leaves are not velvety underneath. Its native habitat is in the Sierra Nevada.

 

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