When we first started looking for the property that was to become Reverie Retreat we had a few criteria: we wanted something within a 3 hour drive of the Bay Area, that had a feeling of remoteness (but not too remote), adequate water supply, lots of trees, beautiful view, we didn’t want to be able to see our neighbors, it needed to have good public road access, and be between 2,000 and 3,000 feet in elevation. The elevation was because we wanted to be able to grow things year round, but we also wanted to be in the oak belt. Further up in elevation and we wouldn’t have very many oak trees, it would be mostly conifers.
We are fortunate that we found a property covered in oak trees, with some beautiful old heritage oaks and a diverse mix of the native oaks that grow in our area. I’ve had fun learning how to identify each kind of oak. The “live oaks” are called “live” because they don’t lose their leaves in the winter. There are several species of deciduous oaks as well. As part of my master gardener training last year we had a whole class on oaks since they are such an important part of the ecosystem in this area. California native oaks are amazing in their ability to withstand the hot dry summers here – as well as periodic drought. If you dig up a tiny little oak you will find a taproot that is probably 20 times the height of the little plant. The little oaks send a taproot down first so that they can reach any moisture in the ground throughout the dry summers. And they will drop their leaves earlier in the summer to conserve water if it was a particularly dry spring and there’s no more moisture in the ground. Last year we had rain pretty late into the spring so we didn’t see the oaks drop their leaves early, but if this spring continues to be as dry as it has been so far I imagine we will see some early leaf dropping happening.
We spent some time this week trying to identify which oaks we have on our property – easier said than done! I thought with the notes from my class on identifying oaks, along with a few books, that it wouldn’t be that difficult. But Ramon and I had a hard time. Here are photos of some of the oaks that we have on our property – labeled with what we *think* are the right names, but we aren’t completely sure. If anyone can identify them accurately, please let me know. And next time you visit Reverie you will have to go on your own oak tour to see if you can identify them for yourself!
Blue Oak – Quercus douglasii
California Tan Oak– Lithocarupus densiflorus (considered a link between a chestnut and an oak so not a true oak)
California Black Oak – Quercus kelloggii – we have a LOT of black oaks
Interior Live Oak – Quercus wislizenii