Tangent: Quercus is an unusual genus in that it has many deciduous and many evergreen (Live Oak) species, and in many places-
Nested Tangent: I *love* Spanish, and this is a great example why. Wait a minute- this tangent should be in Spanish. OK, Otra vez: Me encanta español y aquí está buen ejemplo por que. Español tiene a menudo palabras diferentes para communicar comprensión mas específico. Roble y Encino es un ejemplo. “Ser” y “Estar” es otro, y “Saber” y “conocer” es otro tambien. Ademas la pronunciación está claro y siempre sigue las reglas gramaticas. Hablar y oir bien en español es hablar y oir con mas comprensión.
The range of Gambel Oak is itself a fascinating topic. It grows in wide areas of
Tangent: Professor Chuck, whom I’ll introduce when I talk about hybrid Oaks, spent a good part of his career researching why Gambel Oak give out when it does. He probably has looked into questions of its range in
Under ideal conditions, Gambel Oak grows into a 20-30 ft high tree, but on the dry hillsides it grows in a more “stressed” form of a small tree or low shrub. Oaks reproduce, as everyone knows, through acorns, but around
Tangent: For a long time, I disliked Gambel Oak, and this was why. Many of my early hikes and mtn bike rides in
Gambel Oak leaf blooms and leafs out a couple of weeks later than Bigtooth Maple, and it blooms later the higher you go, so right now pretty much all stages of Oak bloom and leaf development (pic above left) are visible if you’re willing to hoof or pedal around a bit. Oaks are monoecious with imperfect flowers, meaning that a tree bears both male and female flowers. Like most wind-pollinated flowers, they lack colors or glamorous petals and so are a bit dull visually, but the tiny male flowers, dangling in bunches called catkins (pic right), are easy to pick out.
From any objective standpoint, Oak has been- over the last 70 million years or so- an evolutionary home run, with somewhere between 300 and 400 different species encircling the Northern hemisphere.
Tangent: Oaks hybridize easily, and much of the reason for the wide range of number of possible species is that botanists have a tough time agreeing what’s a species vs. a hybrid. As it turns out, there are some really cool Oak hybrids right here around Salt Lake, and they tell an amazing story, which we’ll get to in the next few weeks…
One of the things that make Oak so interesting in its success is its reproductive strategy. Unlike so many of other wind-pollinated trees-such as Maples and Cottonwoods, Oak invests heavily in a relatively small number of resource-intensive seeds (acorns.) Oak is a “Wind-Agent” plant: wind-pollinated, but its acorns require a dispersal agent, such as a squirrel or corvid.
Because Gambel Oak is- for me at least- the best, clearest demarcation line between Early Spring and “High Spring”, because its leaves and seeds are so well-know and recognizable, and because it’s all over the place, it’s probably the best place to talk about what’s really going on in angiosperms, and what exactly happens when that bit of pollen- be it via wind or bee or moth or bird- finally makes its way to the stigma of a female flower.
Next Up: How Angiosperms Work.