Friday, October 5, 2012

October Tree of the Month: Gambel Oak

Gambel Oak (Quercus gambelii) is a common New Mexico Native tree found at both higher and lower elevations of the local mountains. Gambel Oak is also called scrub oak, white oak, occasionally picnic area oak.

There are two Gambel Oak variants: one produces true single trunk type trees,

the other produces colonies via root sprouts. Root sprouts start out small

but eventually may cover entire hillsides. The colony producing types can form groves or thickets (mottes) covering large areas.
These may be clones of only one genotype.  Clonal type trees are usually shorter and thinner than single trunk types. The colony producing types are useful for production of wildlife areas.

Single trunk types can reach 30’ tall and 25’ – 30’ wide or more,

sometimes much , much larger.

Gambel Oaks have deep tap roots. After forest fires, Gambel Oak can quickly re-establish itself from root spouts.

Gambel Oaks produces acorns which are a valuable food for wildlife like Pinon jays and squirrels. They are bitter to our taste so are not considered edible.

Leaves have the classic oak tree lobes.

Fall leaf color ranges from yellow to orangish, sometimes red.

Gambel Oak is best grown in full sun on well-drained soils but they will also tolerate slower draining clay soils, however, growth rate may be reduced.  This oak is best grown with low to regular water and becomes drought tolerant after establishment. Gambel Oaks are long lived trees and are hardy to USDA zone 3. Gambel Oaks make great shade or specimen trees for your landscape. They typically grow 8" - 18" annually. Because of their deep roots they can be planted closer to structures like walls, sidewalks, and even the house than other trees like surface rooted cottonwoods or mulberry.

Contact Trees That Please Nursery for availability and pricing.

Photos & Narrative By:
Stephen Sain
Staff Plant Physiologist

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