Fagaceae: Beech Family — California Tan Oak & Chinquapin

Chinquapin – Chrysolepis chrysophyllla var. minor

Height:

< 5 (10) m

Habitat:

Conifer forest, chaparral

Blooms:

June–Sept

Notes:

This is not uncommonly found in both shrubby and tree forms. It is immediately recognizable by its evergreen leaves, dark green above and golden below, lanceolate with a long-tapered tip, the margins slightly folded upwards.  Flowers are in clusters of  elongated spikes. The tree is frequently covered in what look like 1–2 cm wide round fruits. These are in fact galls caused by the Chinquapin flower gall wasp (Drocosmos castanopsidis) which injects its eggs in to the tree’s young stems. The tree’s fruits are spiny cups  which contain 3 tiny, edible nuts.

California Tan / Tanbark Oak – Notholithocarpus densiflorus var. densiflorus

Height:

< 30 (45) m

Habitat:

Redwood or mixed evergreen forest

Blooms:

June–Oct

Notes:

This was once a common tree but in recent years its population has been devastated by Sudden Oak Death. Sometimes shrubby and many-stemmed but often a tall single-trunked tree.  It has distinctive leaves, evergreen, simple, alternate, ovate to oblong, 3–14 cm long with an obtuse tip and margins that are either entire or serrated. The tree is monoecious, the tiny white male flowers in more or less erect catkin-like spikes and the inconspicuous female flowers below the male. Like most black oaks, the acorns mature over two years. The acorns are distinctive, the cup having a soft-spiny appearance, the result of very slender, spreading to reflexed scales quite different from the appressed scales found in true oaks.