Planting Oaks

Planting Oaks

The oak tree;
not interested
in cherry blossoms…  Matsuo Basho

Any day now the Bay Area’s warm, dry summer season will give way to cooler temperatures and rain — the best time to plant oak trees, seedlings, and acorns. While the spring season payoff may not be a shower of delicately colored blossoms, the long-term benefits of planting California native oaks are mighty, beginning with their acorns, which are an important fall and winter food source for many indigenous birds and small mammals.  The critical habitat value of oaks is matched by the environmental services they provide, such as stormwater reduction and carbon storage and sequestration — not to mention the beauty of their graceful silhouettes.

Fall begins the optimal planting season for oaks.  But, which species are best for your area?  What size of container-grown oaks should you specify?  Or should you specify seedlings? Or even acorns?  Should you consider harvesting acorns this season to be planted as seedlings next year?  What is the long-term success of transplanted oaks?

The answers to these questions (and probably most any question you might have about oaks) can be found in the 2011 University of California publication Oaks in the Urban Landscape: Selection, Care, and Preservation by Laurence R. Costello, Bruce W. Hagen, and Katherine S. Jones.

Besides a detailed and well-illustrated guide to successful planting, this book is a comprehensive resource for the management of oaks in urban settings:

  • from species selection and genetic diversity to the health, growth, aging, and decline of oaks;
  • from cultural practices to biotic and abiotic disorders, structural failures, and the effects of fire; and
  • from preservation during development to tree protection ordinances and woodland conservation.

Oaks in the Urban Landscape belongs on the desks of all landscape architects who plan to rest one day in the generous shade of the oaks they plant today.

Notes: treeScience: above, beneath, and inside the plan view — a regular column on tree-related issues of interest to landscape architects in the Bay Area — is compiled by Laurel Kelly, ASLA, landscape architect at H.T. Harvey & Associates.  Laurel is also an ISA-certified arborist and Registered Consulting Arborist® (email:

Oaks in the Urban Landscape: Selection, Care, and Preservation (Publication #3518) and other peer-reviewed publications regarding tree and plant care are available from the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Online Catalog .

The Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) is a statewide network of University of California researchers and educators dedicated to the creation, development and application of knowledge in agricultural, natural, and human resources. (Barbara H. Allen-Diaz, Vice President)



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