Oak Trees


      There are approximately 600 species of oak trees across the globe. These trees range from small bushy scrub oaks 3-4 feet tall to majestic trees over 100 feet tall.  They grow on every continent in the northern hemisphere.  Oaks are in the genus Quercus with many species, and cultivars.  Many of the species are prized for their hard wood and used in woodworking, flooring, industry, and cooperage.



The Valley Oak


      They are the mightiest of California’s oaks.  The Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) can live to an age of 600 years.   They can reach a height of 100 feet with a trunk diameter of 15 feet.  They tolerate cool wet winters and hot dry summers.  They require abundant water and found on rich deep soils of California’s Central Valleys.  The Valley Oak is distinguished by its deeply lobed (hence the species name lobata) leaves.


       Valley Oaks are generally found on the valley floor near rivers and streams and in open areas where there is an abundance of deep soil and ground water. Major stands of Valley Oaks can be found around the communities of Stockton, Lodi, and Sacramento and throughout the Valley.



Other significant native Oaks in California


      California is home to a significant number of native oaks.  As you travel across the state you will see many of these Oaks as shrubs and trees.  Many of the trees are in commercial production and can be used in drought tolerant landscapes.  Following is a list of significant oaks that can be found in California.  Follow the link to find out more about each.

§       Quercus agrifolia, the Coast Live Oak, a tree 40-75’ tall, found on foothills on the western side of the Coast Range.

§       Quercus berberidifolia, the Scrub Oak, a shrub 8-15’ tall, found on Inland foothill slopes of Southern California.

§       Quercus chrysolepis, the Canyon Live Oak, a tree 20-60’ tall, found on foothills along the western side of the Sierra Nevada Range.

§       Quercus douglasii, the Blue Oak, a tree 30-50’ tall, found on dry foothills of the Central Valley.

§       Quercus dumosa, the Coastal Scrub Oak, a shrub 6-25’’ tall, found on hillsides near the ocean in Southern California.

§       Quercus durata, the Leather Oak, a shrub to 10’ tall, found on the Sierra Nevada foothills.

§       Quercus engelmannii, the Engelmann Oak, a tree 40-50’ tall, found in Southern California.

§       Quercus garryana, the Oregon White Oak or Garry Oak, a tree 30-60’ tall, found in the North end of California and Oregon.

§       Quercus kelloggii, the California Black Oak, a tree 30-75’ tall, found on high foothills Oregon to Southern California.

§       Quercus lobata, the Valley Oak, a tree 40-100’ tall, found in the Interior Valleys of California.

§       Quercus tomentella, the Island Oak, a tree 25-40’ tall, found on California’s Channel Islands.

§       Quercus turbinella, the Desert Scrub Oak, a shrub to 10’ tall, found in the desert mountains in Sothern California.

§       Quercus vacciniflora, the Huckleberry Oak, a shrub 2-5’ tall, found on the foothills of extreme Northern California.

§       Quercus wislizeni, the Interior Live Oak, a tree 30-75’ tall, found on foothills along the eastern side of Coast Range.


       Many of California's native oak trees are commercially available from specialty nurseries and have been specified by Landscape Architects.  The trees are suitable for drought tolerant landscapes and generally do not tolerate summer water.


Other Oaks used in California

      A number of other non-native oaks have been used in California landscapes

§       Quercus ilex, the Holly Oak, a tree 20-60’ tall, Native to the Mediterranean.

§       Quercus suber, the Cork Oak, a tree 30-60’ tall, Native to the Mediterranean, used for Wine Corks.



Oaks used in the Wine Industry


      Oaks have a special place in the wine and liquor industry, from the production of fine wines, to aging of fine bourbon, to closing the wine bottle.  Many prized species and cultivars are grown in the eastern United States, and Europe.

§       Quercus robur (Q. pedicuulata), the English Oak or French Oak, a tree 10-35’ tall, found throughout Europe and England is used for French Oak Barrels.

§       Quercus petraea (Q. sessilis), the Sesslile Oak, European Oak, a tree 60-130’ tall, found throughout Europe is used for Wine Barrels.

§       Quercus alba, the White Oak, American Oak , a tree 80-100’ tall, found in Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Virginia is generally used for Whiskey Barrels and some Wine Barrels.

§       Quercus garryanna, the Oregon Oak, a tree 30-60’ tall, found in extreme northern California and Oregon is just starting to be used for Wine Barrels.

§       Quercus suber, the Cork Oak, a tree 30-60’ tall, Native to the Mediterranean, used to make Wine Corks.


            Typically, European oak is classified by the region or forest from which it comes rather than by botanic name. Trees from each of these unique geographic areas may vary slightly and be a separate variety.   Oak tree from forests in France are known as Limousin, Nevers, Allier Tronçais, Bourgogne, and Vosges.  Additionally there are forests in Hungary, and the Czech Republic, and Russia.


§       The Limousin forests in France are predominantly Q. pendunculata

§       The Nevers forests are predominantly Q. sessilis

§       The Allier forests are predominantly Q. sessilis

§       The Tronçais forests are predominantly Q. sessilis

§       The Bourgogne forests are predominantly Q. pendunculata

§       The Vosges forests are predominantly Q. pendunculata

§       The Hungarian forest is predominantly  Quercus petraea and Quercus robur

§       The Czech Republic forests are predominantly  Q. sessilis

§       The Russian forests are predominantly Q. sessilis


            The wine maker must also be a botanist and a chemist to determine which oak barrel to use because of the number of factors impact the wine to be aged in the barrel.


§       The cooperage to make the barrel.

§       The species of oak to be used.

§       The amount of time the raw wood is dried (aged) before making the barrels.

§       The thickness of barrel staves.

§      The shape and style of the barrel, Burgundy export, Bordeaux export, and Bordeaux ferre.

§       The quantity of wine the barrel is to hold, normally around 225 to 228 liters, sometimes they can be as large as 300 to 600 liters.  In addition some cooperages make large tanks.

§       The type of flame used to toast the inside of barrels.

§      The heat of the flame used to toast barrels.

§       The level  of toasting of the barrel: light, medium, medium long, medium-plus, or heavy.



          As you can imagine, choosing a the characteristics of a wine barrel and how it will impact the wine to be aged in them becomes a complex event for the winemaker.



Ver. 1/18/15

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