7ed45357d93d7d80ed3e6b18fed7cf41

There are several rare plants in Orange County.

rvanderhoff

In fact, I’ve written about a few of them here in this column over the years; a rare coconut palm in Newport Beach, an improbable Royal Poinciana in Placentia, a mature Traveler’s Palm in Fountain Valley. These are indeed rare trees.

However, each of these are planted trees, tended to by a gardener. With enough attention and some clever manipulation it amazes me what we can grow here in the wonderful climate of Orange County. But what about those plants that don’t have the benefit of a gardener? What about those trees that are rare here for other reasons; not because of cultivation, but natural rarities. I’m fascinated by these wild, but rare plants.

Valley Oaks (Quercus lobata) are one of California’s signature trees. The largest of all of North America’s oak species, these are majestic plants and are native only to California. Throughout California’s central valley to as far north as Mendocino County these majestic trees are visible for many miles. The largest trees shade an area 150 feet in diameter, above a trunk that can measure 12 feet in girth. Picture a grassy pasture, a huge spreading tree and maybe an old farmhouse in the far distance. This is that tree.

Quercus_lobata_Moro_Cyn_2

Valley Oaks don’t much care for the southern one third of California. It’s just a little too warm and dry for them down here. The San Fernando Valley, North of Los Angeles, is about the furthest south they will wander.

However, back in 1983, one of our state’s top field botanists discovered a single Valley Oak tree right here in Orange County, growing wild. A young Fred Roberts took a sample, pressed it, noted the location and sent it off to a herbarium – sort of a museum for plant specimens. Fred found the lonely tree growing in Moro Canyon, which is now part of Crystal Cove State Park.

Quercus_lobata_Moro_Cyn_1_2

I have hiked Moro Canyon several times and each time I have looked for this tree. But looking for one tree among thousands, in a wide canyon almost four miles long, is like looking for one life raft in the Pacific Ocean. Still, I wasn’t giving up. I had found other rare native trees in Orange County; a small stand of Madrones in Trabuco Canyon, Tecate Cypress in the Northern Santa Ana Mountains and a few Summer Holly trees on a hillside South of Laguna Beach. So on Sunday, July 31, I decided I would take another trip through Moro Canyon and search again.

I have a habit of not planning my hikes very far in advance. I enjoy the spontaneity of deciding where I might be travelling as I back out of the driveway. But on the evening before this trip I decided to send Fred a note and let him know I was heading out the next morning to again look for the tree he had found 28 years earlier. At 9:37 PM I hit the “send” button.

Quercus_lobata_Moro_Cyn_2_3

To my surprise, thirty minutes later I got an encouraging note back from Fred. “Glad to hear you’re looking for that tree Ron. I haven’t checked on it in many years.” Fred continued, “The area burned in 1993 and it may have been lost. Let me now what you find”. He then checked his notes and relayed a general description of the tree’s location. Next morning, off I went.

The morning was damp. An unusual summer rainstorm had fallen during the night, complete with lightning and thunder. Drizzle was still falling as I made my way up the canyon. I was scanning every tree, both near and far, searching again for what had eluded me on prior visits. But this time I had Fred’s advice.

After a couple of miles I noticed a dead snag rising out of the prolific toyon and sumac in the canyon. I stopped and looked a bit closer. There, just to the left of the old, dead tree were a few distinctively lobed leaves. It was a Valley Oak! I had found it – one of OC’s rarest plants!

The original tree, never as large or majestic as its happier Northern family, had indeed burned in 1993. Essentially killed, the tree’s dead, dry carcass was broken and rotting.

But all was not lost. At the base of the old, burned tree, three or four young sprouts had emerged several years ago from the roots. Fed by the ashes of the fire, they had now reached through the dense brush and had managed about twelve feet in height. The leaves were healthy and the tree, although precarious in the event of another fire, was re-growing.

One of Orange County’s rarest trees, our only Valley Oak tree, was still alive.

Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens, Corona del Mar.

Questions from Readers August 13.

Are Lisianthus annuals or perennials?

Gladys, Newport Beach

Answer:

Technically, most references still state that Lisianthus are perennials, growing from year to year. But the reality is here in Southern California Lisianthus are pretty miserable once cool weather is upon us. They stop growing, decline quickly and usually rot away in the cool, wet winter. They are great summer flowers Gladys, but rather that try to nurse them through the winter, you’re better off replacing them with a cool season alternative like, stock, cyclamen, snapdragons or calendulas.

Assembly_7-24-10_4

Plant Care Reminders

Oranges Monthly Plant Care
Edibles Steve Brigham

Oranges - Sweet (Citrus sinensis ) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Aloe Monthly Plant Care
Cactus and Succulents Solana Succulents

Aloe spp (Aloe) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Carrot - Scarlet Nantes (Daucus carota…

2349 San Diego Seed Company
Carrot Plant Care Reminders
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Cauliflower - Romanesco (Brassica…

2298 San Diego Seed Company
Romanesco Cauliflower Plant Care
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Zigzag Wattle (Acacia merinthophora) -…

17522 Julie Bawden-Davis
Zigzag Wattle Plant Care - photo courtesy Brian Walter via Wikipedia Commons
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Gardening Articles

Carole Brown
Expert Bios Carole Brown

Carole Brown - Southwest

Region: Southwest
Epipactis gigantea
Natives Ron Vanderhoff

Orange Counties Wild Orchid - Epipactis gigantea

I’ve been gardening in Orange County for a long time and I’ve been hiking and exploring our local wild areas for even longer.

How to Sow Wildflowers, like Poppies - and Succeed

10115
California Poppy Seeds
So you want to sow some wildflowers; like a modern day Johnny Appleseed, traveling about,…

Chris Greenwood - Southwest

9855
Chris Greenwood
Region: Southwest

Preparing For Your Winter Vegetables

28328
Winter Vegetables
Winter is rapidly approaching and those with vegetable gardens will need to be prepared…

Plant Recommendations

Worley's Butter Cream
Plant Recommendations Tom Piergrossi

Shrubs - Southern California

Tom Piergrossi's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Shrubs for Southern California.
Ranunculus spp
Plant Recommendations evelyn alemanni

Bulbs - Southern California

Evelyn Alemanni's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Bulbs for Southern California. 

Vines or Vine Like - Southern California

5170 Jacqueline McGee
Butterfly Vine
Jacqueline McGee's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Vines or Vine-Like for Southern…

Trees - Southern California

4429 Jacqueline McGee
Hong Kong Orchid Tree
Jacqueline McGee's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Trees for Southern California.

Supporting Pollinators: Bee-Friendly…

23631 Rhonda Hayes
Helianthus
Rhonda Fleming Hayes' Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Supporting Pollinators:…

Featured Plant Care

Akebia trifoliata Monthly Plant Care

Akebia - Three Leafed (Akebia trifoliata) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Edibles
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Lemon Daylily Plant Care

Daylily - Lemon (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus) - Monthly Plant Care Reminders

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Default Image

Grevillea - Mountain (Grevillea alpina) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Shrubs
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
English Lavender Monthly Plant Care Reminders

Lavender - English (Lavandula angustifolia) - Monthly Plant Care Reminders

in Shrubs
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Latest Articles

Join the Mulch and get a bunch of Walking onion bulblets!

Join the Mulch & Get a Free Bunch of Walking Onion Bulblets!

We'd like you to join theMulch and start using all of the great tools we've created to…
Jungle Music Palms and Cycads

Jungle Music Palms, Cycads & Tropical Plants Fall Newsletter

Rare and Exotic Palms, Cycads and Tropical Plants junglemusic.net Hello! You may already…

Popular Articles

Baseball Field Maintenance

Baseball Field Maintenance - A General Guide for Fields of All Levels

in Lawn
More great baseball field resources can be found here (including a pdf version of this…
Queen Palm Care & Use

The Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) Care & Use

in Trees
Jungle Music Palms and Cycads is a family owned and operated business established in 1977
Microgreens

What are Microgreens and How to Grow Them

in Edibles
Microgreens are tiny leafed vegetables that are grown from seed and require very little…
Kahili Ginger Plant Care

Hedychium gardnerianum (Kahili Ginger) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

User Guides (Slide)

Popular Recommendations (Slide)