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GAMBEL OAK - Quercus gambelii

Courtesy of Lookout Mountain Nature Center,
Courtesy of Lookout Mountain Nature Center,
Courtesy of Lookout Mountain Nature Center,

Common Name: GAMBEL OAK
Meaning: scrub - appearing stunted.
Other Common Names: scrub oak
Scientific Name: Quercus gambelii
Derivation: for William Gambel, 19th century field assistant who worked with Thomas Nuttall, English botanist and western explorer.
Family: Oak - Fagaceae
Species Characteristics: leaves usually over 2 inches long, not rigid.
Mature Height: to 20 feet.
Mature Spread: 15 to 20 feet.
Flower Color: light green
Flower Size: inconspicuous
Flower Structure: flowers unisexual and monoecious
Fruit Type: acorn or nut (fairly large dry fruit with a thick and bony wall surrounding a single seed that does not split open upon maturity).
Leaf Type: simple (not divided into similar parts), alternate (one leaf per node - joint where the leaf joins the stem), lobed (typically rounded leaf division).
Leaf/Leaflet Shape: deep rounded lobes.
Origin: native
Frequency: common
Growth Form: shrub/tree
Life Cycle: perennial
Class: angiosperm (plant with covered seed).
SubClass: dicot (plants with two seed leaves and netted leaf veins).
Season of Bloom: spring (Mar. - May).
Life Zone: foothills
Habitat: foothills, Jefferson County and south at 5,000 to 9,000 feet elevation.
Eco. Relationships: Gambel oak is one of the few broadleaf deciduous (sheds leaves at the end of the growing season) trees native to the Intermountain West; wind pollinated climax community of the foothills; stimulated to sucker by fire; aggressive invader after fire or disturbance; acorns are eaten by scrub jay (which may bury them for later retrieval), wild turkey, Colorado chipmunk and black bear and are an important food for Chihauhan species such as Mexican woodrat, rock mouse and rock squirrel found in rocky habitats in the foothills and montane life zones in Colorado; leaves are eaten by mule deer, Mexican wood rat and porcupine; absent north of Morrison, CO due to frost damage to seedlings and/or summer drought due to decreased Arizona monsoon effect; host plant for Colorado Hairstreak butterfly, 1 inch, deep purple above, gray below, with marginal orange spots; the Colorado Hairstreak remains active even at dusk and on cloudy or rainy days.

Origin: native

Availability: commonly available.
Landscaping Use: small tree, background, tough, dry sites.
Moisture Requirement: drought tolerant, requires infrequent irrigation.
Light Requirement: full sun, south and west at high elevations.
Soil Requirement: coarse, pH 7.0 to 7.5, deep, dry to moist, well-drained.

Human Toxicity: young twigs contain up to 10% tannic acid and can cause livestock poisoning in March and April.
Edibility: acorns can be ground to produce flour, mush, breads and cakes; acorns are high in lysine, an essential amino acid missing in corn and provided an important protein source for Native Americans; acorn oil can be skimmed from boiled kernel water.
Fiber/Dye: bark yields tan; insect galls yield gold dye.
Other Uses: acorns and leaves are fair forage for livestock; Native Americans made many implements from the hard wood including bows, arrows, scoops, digging and rabbit sticks, axe handles, hoes, snowshoes, cradles and clubs.

Version: 3.0.0      Release Date: August 2015       ©2015 Jefferson County ITS

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