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Northern California Regional Reports

Planting Under Native Oak Trees in Northern California | Regional Report

Valley oak trees. Photos by Noah Briel courtesy of Fionuala Campion

Loved for their beauty, longevity, and value to wildlife and the environment, oak trees have earned their place as a symbol of California’s natural landscape. Of the many species endemic to Northern California, the valley oak (Quercus lobata, Zones 7–11), the black oak (Q. kelloggii, Zones 5–8), and the coast live oak (Q. agrifolia, Zones 8–10) are the varieties most often found in residential settings. Oak trees are stunning in their native habitat and are naturally rugged and resilient, but an oak tree’s health can be jeopardized when the tree is incorporated into a landscape design.

Planting within the drip line or the “10 foot danger zone” or changing the soil’s grade, moisture levels, or drainage patterns can adversely affect an oak’s health. Remaining close to the oak’s natural preference for dry summers and moist winters is essential. Planting varieties that tolerate and even thrive in dry summer soils and partial…

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