The Coast Live Oak is a beautiful evergreen oak that is native to the coastal regions of California. It grows predominantly west of the central valleys, as far north as Mendocino County, and as far south as northern Baja California in Mexico. This tree typically has a much-branched trunk and reaches a mature height of 10-25 meters. Some specimens may attain an age exceeding 250 years, with trunk diameters up to three or four meters. Its form is highly variable, and younger trees are often shrubby. The trunk, particularly for older individuals, may be highly contorted, massive and gnarled. The crown is broadly rounded and dense, especially when aged 20 to 70 years; in later life the trunk and branches are more well defined and the leaf density lower. The leaves are dark green, oval, often convex in shape, 2-7 cm long and 1-4 cm broad; the leaf margin is spiny-toothed. The fruit is a slender reddish brown acorn 2-3.5 cm long and 1-1.5 cm broad and matures about 7-8 months after pollination (most red oak acorns take 18 months to mature).
The Coast Live Oak is one of the only California native oak that actually thrives in the coastal environment, although it is rare on the immediate shore; it enjoys the mild winter and summer climate afforded by ocean proximity, and it is somewhat tolerant of aerosol-borne sea salt. The coastal fog supplies relief from the rainless California summer heat. It is the dominant overstory plant of the Coast Live Oak woodland habitat, often joined by California Bay Laurel and California Buckeye north of Big Sur. Associated understory plants include Toyon, various manzanitas, and Western Poison-oak. Normally the tree is found on well drained soils of coastal hills and plains, usually near year round or perennial streams. It's also often found in rocky hillsides that capture and hold more moisture. It may be found in several natural communities including Coast Live Oak woodland, Engelmann Oak woodland, Valley Oak woodland and both northern and southern mixed evergreen forests. While normally found within 100 kilometers of the Pacific Ocean at elevations less than 700 meters, in southern California it occasionally occurs at up to 1,500 meters in altitude.
The acorns are stored in a refrigerator to maintain viability.
Growing Instructions for the Coast Live Oak
1. The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot. Water the mixture so that it is moist but not wet. 2. Put the seeds on the soil. 3. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. 4. Water the seeds. 5. Place the pots in an area with warm temperatures in full sun or part shade. 6. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.