Oak Trees

    Gambel Oak (Quercus gambelii)

    Family: Fagaceae or Beech

    Leaves: Alternate; simple; oblong to obovate; 2-1/2" to 7" long; deciduous; margin with 7 to 9 rounded lobes; dark green and glabrous above; pale and hairy beneath; orange-yellow to brown in fall; thick; petiole 1/2" long.

    Twigs/buds: Twigs stout; orange- to red-brown; hairy. Terminal buds clustered at end of twig, blunt; lateral buds smaller; buds brown.

    Flowers/fruit: Fruit an acorn; short-stalked or no stalk; 1/2" to 3/4" long ; brown; 1/4 to 1/2 enclosed by warty, hairy cap; matures in one season.

    Bark: Gray-brown; somewhat platy-scaly but can be ridged.

    Wood: Unimportant; similar to bur oak; mainly used for firewood. Ring-porous.

    General: Native to most of the foothills of Utah and throughout the Intermountain West and the southern and central Rockies. Grows on fairly dry lower mountain slopes; this is the common "scrub" oak along the foothills of the Wasatch. It grows in clumps and is usually fairly shrubby, forming fairly dense, pure stands with a lot of open spaces. Can reach 60 feet tall. Reproduces vigorously from root sprouts after a fire or other disturbance. Very drought tolerant. Shade intolerant.

    Landscape Use: This is a desirable landscape tree in many ways, with its attractive, clumpy growth form, its interesting leaves and fruit, and its good to fair fall color. Unfortunately, it also is fire-prone on native sites and should be thinned around buildings to reduce fuel. Occasionally planted and good for tough, dry sites, but availability is somewhat limited. No cultivars are available, though some nurseries have hybrids of Gambel and bur oaks. Zones 4-8.

    Comments and Limitations:
    - Fruit and/or plant part can be a nuisances; use fruitless varieties if possible.
    - Evergreen broadleaf (retains its leaves for more than one year).