Flora Friday: Holly Oak

Thanks to the contributions of two energetic people who know plants, chavezpark.org is publishing a complete botanical inventory of the park. Jutta Burger PhD is Lead Scientist for the California Invasive Plant Council, and Bob Huttar is a certified arborist and a consulting field biologist specializing in botany generally and rare plants in particular. Together they are photographing and identifying everything that grows in the park, both common and scientific names. They’ve done the scientific heavy lifting. I’m adding some background blog-talk. We’re publishing the results in a series, with a new installment every Friday.

This week’s featured plant: The Holly Oak (Quercus ilex) growing solo on the east side of the park. It’s one of several holly oaks, with the rest growing in the woody area on the west side. Nobody knows how the east side specimen got there. Oaks reproduce via acorns. Possibly a jay snatched an acorn from the other side of the park, buried it here for safekeeping, and forgot about it. Or a squirrel might have done it.

The plant is also known as the evergreen oak, southern oak, or holm oak. It’s native to the Mediterranean, but well established in many other regions. According to Wikipedia, Quercus ilex has the capability of growing into a large and durable tree.

The TROBI Champion in Gloucestershire measured 27 14 ft (8.3 m) in circumference at 1.2 m height in 1993. Another tree at Courtown House, Wexford, Ireland, reputedly planted in 1648, measured 20 m in height, with a spread of 43 m in 2010.[10] A specimen in Milo, in Sicily, is reputed to be 700 years old[11] while a small population on the slopes of northern village of Wardija in Malta are said to be between 500 and 1,000 years old.

Needless to say, our local specimen on the east side has a long, long way to go before it gets into that league. Currently it’s just a bush, barely higher than the surrounding weeds, giving little indication of its great potential.

Holly Oak on east side of park
Leaves of Quercus ilex are said to be highly variable

Bub Huttar did the identification. See this plant on CalPhotos, and on CalFlora. I would love to see this oak and others that will grow here establish themselves. As my son from New York City observed some time ago, the park in places has a barren look and could benefit greatly from more trees. Word.

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