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Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) flowering in the Spring time

Many of us are thankful to be living in California at this time of year. While much of the country is battling record low temperatures, we are enjoying a relatively warm and notably dry winter. No matter where you are, however, this is a wonderful time of year to notice the differences in the trees that grow in your area. Have a look outside, and you may find that some trees have become bare, while others have maintained their leafy green appeal. Those that lose their leaves when the cold weather sweeps in are known as deciduous, and those that remain green are appropriately called evergreens. Deciduous trees have adapted to lose their foliage during the colder seasons as a means of conserving energy. Evergreens, which are more common in warmer climates, also conserve energy by shedding leaves, but they lose them throughout the year a little at a time. Conifers are another group of mostly evergreens that consists of pines, spruces, hemlocks, etc. which produce spiny, needle-like foliage. Here in our local ecosystems, we have many examples of deciduous, evergreen, and coniferous trees.

The Coast Live Oak is an evergreen tree native to the central and southern coasts of California. It flowers in the spring and produces small acorns. This oak is able to thrive in a coastal environment because it is able to tolerate the marine fog that brings sea salt. These trees vary greatly in size, and can grow to be 80 feet tall in the right conditions, and can live to be 250 years old. The Coast Live Oak can be identified by its small oval-shaped leaves which are dark green in color, and contain spiny lateral edges.

A Valley Oak Tree (Quercus lobata)

The Valley Oak is a deciduous tree also found in the central and southern regions of California. It is an endemic species, meaning that it can only be found here in California. These trees can have a lifespan of up to 600 years, and can reach heights of up to 100 feet. The Valley Oak does not require much water, but can have root systems that extend farther than 60 feet, making it a tree that is resilient and suitable to thrive in various climates. The trees produce greenish-yellow flowers when temperatures become warmer and fruit with long acorns. The green, medium-sized lobed leaves change color and fall when temperatures become colder.

The Digger Pine, also known as the California Foothill Pine or Gray Pine is a coniferous evergreen that is also endemic to California. It produces needles in gray-green bundles of three, along with large, heavy pine cones. Many local tribes utilized these trees for their seeds, cones, bark, and needles for food, utility, and medicinal purposes. The name “Digger Pine” may have come from those who dug into the ground to retrieve fallen pine cones. This tree is also very resilient and can thrive in areas on the edges of the Mojave Desert which receive only three inches of rain annually. Digger Pines can live as long as 200 years, and the tallest recorded height was 160 feet tall!

Remember that trees are natural resources that provide us with clean air, and they should be treasured and respected. Not only do they serve us and our community, they also provide homes for many local birds, insects, and mammals. These are just a few examples of trees that are commonly found in our area. Las Pilitas is a great resource for learning about native trees, including those listed here and many more. Each species is different and has something special to offer the community and the ecosystem in which it lives. What kinds of trees live near you? Are they deciduous or evergreen? Are there any conifers?

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