Oregon White Oak – Quercus garryana
Other Names: Oregon Oak, Garry Oak, Post Oak, Shin Oak, Brewer’s Oak (in shrub form), wiyi qh ále (Kashaya Pomo).
Distinctive Characteristics: The deciduous leaves, with deep rounded lobes, are dark and shiny on the upper side and lighter and slightly hairy on the underside. The mature bark is brownish-gray and deeply fissured. The acorns bulge out of their shallow, scaly cups. They hybridize with the similar-looking Valley Oak (which generally has slightly larger, shallower lobed leaves), Blue Oak, and several shrub oaks.
Distribution: Native to California, Oregon White Oak is the only native oak species in Oregon, Washington in the US, and southwestern British Columbia in Canada, where sparse populations are found on Vancouver Island and along the Fraser River. Elevation: sea level to 4,000 ft. (1,220 m), and up to 7,400 ft. (2,100 m) as the shrub × breweri.
Ecosystem: Grows in a variety of plant communities and climates, either solitary, in pure groves, in open woodlands, or in closed-canopy forests. They may be found on slopes, hilltops, valley bottoms, or riparian areas, with Valley Oak, Blue Oak, Black Oak, Canyon Live Oak, Coast Live Oak, Douglas Fir, Tanoak, Yellow Pine, California Buckeye, California Bay Laurel, Pacific Madrone, Water Birch, Lodgepole Pine, White Pine, Ponderosa Pine, Big Leaf Maple, Coast Redwood, Oregon Ash, Grand Fir, White Alder, White Fir, Red Fir, Vine Maple, Rocky Mountain Maple, White Alder, Rocky Mountain Juniper, Willow sp., Western Redcedar, Western Hemlock, manzanita sp., ceanothus sp., Oregon grape, hazelnut, bunch grasses, bracken fern, mountain mahogany, snowberry, oceanspray, hawthorn, serviceberry, mistletoe, California brome, balsamroot, and poison oak.
Maximum Age: Five hundred years.
Maximum Height and Girth: 120 ft. (36 m) in height; 25.3 ft. (7.7 m) in circumference.
Animal Community: Oregon White Oak woodlands are critical habitat for these rare species in Washington and British Columbia: Lewis woodpecker, propertius duskywing butterfly, leaf-mining moth, slender-billed nuthatch, sharp-tailed snake, Western gray squirrel, Western tanager, Western wood peewee, and Western bluebird. Downy woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, and long-eared myotis (bat) use the tree cavities for nesting. Bear, deer, elk, grey squirrels, raccoons, acorn woodpeckers, band-tailed pigeons, Merriam’s wild turkeys, rodents, and scrub jays eat the acorns.
Medicine: The bark was used to treat tuberculosis. The interior of the bark behind knots was pounded and either put in warm water to drink or rubbed on a mother’s body before childbirth.
Food: The acorns were prepared for food by many tribes, including: Chehalis, Cowlitz, Karok, Mendocino Indians, Nisqually, Paiute, Pomo, Kashaya Pomo, Kawaiisu, Coast Salish, Shasta, Squaxin.
Shelter: Oak wood was used to make poles and supports for sweathouses, earth lodges, dance houses, and other structures.
Modern Uses: The wood’s hard, decay-resistant heartwood has been used for shipbuilding, railroad ties, wagon parts, fence posts, mine timbers, crates, caskets, small construction, wood turning, small furniture, veneer, cabinets, wine casks, flooring, wood pulp, and firewood.
Threats and Conservation: While common in California and Oregon, over 50% of its habitat in Washington, and up to 90% in British Columbia, has been destroyed due to land conversion and lack of fire. Conservation efforts are active in Tacoma, Washington, where an Oak Tree Park has been established; in the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area in Washington; and in Oak Bay, British Columbia, where a fine of up to $10,000 may be issued if a Garry Oak tree is cut or damaged.