Open Space Background

Oak Varieties

There are only three kinds of oak trees in the Open Space. They are the Blue Oak, the Valley Oak, and the Coast Live Oak. We are disregarding the "Poison Oak," which is more of a shrub or a vine than a tree.

coast live oak

Coast Live Oak Leaves
2011 Jean Pawek

The Coast Live Oak has leaves all year long, thus the name "Live Oak." The leaves are a bit more "cupped" than either of the two deciduous oaks. You can imagine, with this cupping, that the Coast Live Oak leaves would float better in water, much as a boat would float on Coastal waters. The other two oaks are deciduous, dropping their leaves late in the year.

blue oak

Blue Oak Leaves
2008 Keir Morse

The Blue Oak leaves have a slightly bluish cast to them, the leaves are smaller than the Valley Oaks and the bark has smaller vertical striations in it.

valley oak

Valley Oak Leaves
2008 Keir Morse

Valley oaks are the massive trees that are iconic in the California landscape. Their leaves have deeper lobes than blue oaks. The top ridge of Shell Ridge has several stunted Valley Oaks. The stunting is due to the excessive amounts of wind pruning.

Jerry Fritzke
June 22, 2003