170a90d9cb65cbe01362da4a6057fa7a

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

Amaranth Monthly Plant Care
Edibles San Diego Seed Company

Amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Beautyberry Monthly Plant Care
Shrubs Julie Bawden-Davis

Callicarpa spp. (Beautyberry) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

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

Organic Rose Care

40574 Ralph (Jack) Shoultz
Rose Plant Care
Roses prefer a full day of sun. Give roses at least 6 hours of sun a day when possible.

Chinese Fringe Flower (Loropetalum…

4072 Julie Bawden-Davis
Loropetalum chinense Monthly Plant Care
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Gardening Articles

Plants & Such Crossword
Crossword Puzzles Garry Shirts

Puzzle #3 - Think Purple

Print this and take a few minutes and have some fun trying to figure this crossword puzzle out. Let us know if you have any suggestions for new puzzles. Be sure not to peek!
Wollemia nobilis
Plant Profiles Ron Vanderhoff

The Greatest Botanical Find of the Century

It's been called the botanical discovery of the century.

Steve Brigham - Southwest

17528
Steve Brigham
Region: Southwest

What is your favorite plant to propagate from cuttings, and why?

54062
Aeonium urbicum
These gardening ideas titled "Sharing Secrets" are provided by the San Diego…

2010 Perennial Plant of the Year - Baptisia australis

2971
Default Image
Blue false indigo grows three to four feet tall and three to four feet wide in an upright…

Plant Recommendations

Cuphea
Plant Recommendations Steve Brigham

Hummingbird Plants - Southern California

Steve Brigham's Top Plant Recommendations: Favorite Hummingbird Plants for Southern California.
Jim Threadgill
Plant Recommendations jim threadgill

California Natives - Southern California

Jim Threadgill's Top Plant Recommendations: Favorite California Natives.

Cannas - Southern California

11809 Susi Torre-Bueno
Canna 'Pretoria'
Susi Torre-Bueno's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Cannas for Southern California.

Brain Food: Blueberries

55829 Ron Vanderhoff
Blueberries
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but a daily bowl of blueberries may actually…

Common Fruit Trees for the Coast -…

16883 Lucy Warren
Anna Apples
Lucy Warren's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Common Fruit Trees for the Southern…

Featured Plant Care

Pruning Fruit Trees

Fruit Trees with No Fruit

in Edibles
Do you have a fruit tree in your garden, but no fruit in your garden?
St. Catherine's Lace Monthly Plant Care

St. Catherine's Lace (Eriogonum giganteum) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

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

Firethorn - Scarlet (Pyracantha coccinea) - Monthly Plant Care Reminders

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

Latest Articles

Edit Your Tagged Photos!

How to Edit or Remove A Plant "Tag" In Your Garden Photos

Instead of 'Tagging' your friends on Facebook, now you can 'Tag' your Plants in your…
Seed Starting

10 Easy Cut Flowers to Direct Sow

in Seeds
A cut-flower garden or "cutting garden" allows you to bring the beauty of your garden…

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)