Friday, March 29, 2013

Coast Live Oak

This blog is about my native plant garden in Encinitas, CA. Encinitas is located in north San Diego County. By "native plants" I mean primarily those that grow wild in this region, but also other parts of the state of California as well as Baja, Mexico. I started this garden about 20 years ago, so some of my plants are mature while others are recent additions.

In 2011 we did a major remodel of our house and that necessitated removing a lot of plants in the front yard. After that I did a lot of replanting which turned out to be a big improvement. In 2012 I entered my new front yard in a competition called California Friendly Landscape Contest and won first place in the San Dieguito Water District (Encinitas).

What I want to talk about today is my Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) that I've had in my front yard for about 15 years. I planted it as a tiny 1 gal. seedling. It has grown slowly and is still far from full size, but it is the perfect tree for my front yard.

The above photo was taken while we were still in the midst of remodeling. A few weeks later we had to trim back some branches on the left side of the tree to make room for a trellis. Below is how the oak looks now, after about 2 years of regrowth.

It is still a little sparse on the side that I had to trim, but it's coming back now. At this time of year (March) there is a lot of new growth coming out. The new growth is initially red in color because chlorophyll has not yet developed in the new leaf tissues. Gradually, the chlorophyll begins to show and the leaf buds turn green. Here is what they look like at that stage.

They also produce flower tassels at this time, as shown below. If pollinated, the flowers will produce acorns.

In addition to being a great garden tree, oaks are very important for wildlife. Many birds, reptiles, insects, deer, and other animals rely on oak woodlands for food or shelter. My oak tree attracts scrub jays, brown towhees, bushtits, hummingbirds, and many other birds. Perhaps the most interesting and unusual species that lives in my yard is the Silvery legless lizard (Aniella pulchra). I'll write more about that another time.

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