Photogenic Oak Trees in North San Luis Obispo County

An Oak Tree in Winter

This oak tree sits in the middle of a vineyard near Peachy Canyon Tasting Room in Templeton, California. It was taken in winter.
This oak tree sits in the middle of a vineyard near Peachy Canyon Tasting Room in Templeton, California. It was taken in winter. | Source

Two Oaks above Vineyard

These two oaks, which appear to be different varieties, stand above the grape vines. In front you see a border of milk thistles in bloom.
These two oaks, which appear to be different varieties, stand above the grape vines. In front you see a border of milk thistles in bloom. | Source

Oaks and Vineyards Go Together

Some of the most beautiful and unique oak trees are sitting in vineyards. Since I often roam the vineyards of Paso Robles and Templeton, I am always seeing and photographing oak trees. I haven't yet pinned down their species, but that doesn't keep me from appreciating them. Some are short and wide, in comparison to their towering and slimmer cousins. Some are so tall my camera can't take in their full height. Some are so wide I have to walk far away from them to encompass the entire picture. The one above is a deciduous variety. Many of our oaks are more striking in winter because they are in stark contrast to their relatives who are dressing in green all year.

Oak By the Side of the Road

Another large oak hovering over a vineyard in August
Another large oak hovering over a vineyard in August | Source

Tall Oaks at Valhalla Vineyards

These oaks stand outside the fence at Valhalla Vineyards in Paso Robles, California
These oaks stand outside the fence at Valhalla Vineyards in Paso Robles, California | Source

Veris Vineyards are Full of Oak Trees

Oaks dot Veris vineyard in Templeton. Oaks have wider root systems than their crown, and like to spread out, as these have.
Oaks dot Veris vineyard in Templeton. Oaks have wider root systems than their crown, and like to spread out, as these have. | Source

Pomar Junction Oak

This is just one of the many oaks in the vineyards at Pomar Junction in Templeton, California
This is just one of the many oaks in the vineyards at Pomar Junction in Templeton, California | Source

Heart Hill in Paso Robles

Heart Hill  is a grove of oak trees which stands in the midst of the Niner Estates Vineyards in Paso Robles.  The trees have been there in this heart shape since long before the grapes were planted.
Heart Hill is a grove of oak trees which stands in the midst of the Niner Estates Vineyards in Paso Robles. The trees have been there in this heart shape since long before the grapes were planted. | Source

Oak Behind Niner Tasting Room

This oak sits in one of the newer vineyards behind the Niner Tasting Room in Paso Robles, California.
This oak sits in one of the newer vineyards behind the Niner Tasting Room in Paso Robles, California. | Source

Oaks Come in Many Shapes and Sizes

Every oak starts as an acorn similar to these. Each species has its own acorn shape. These acorns, as you see, come from a shrub variety of oak. This one was found on Arbor Road in Paso Robles
Every oak starts as an acorn similar to these. Each species has its own acorn shape. These acorns, as you see, come from a shrub variety of oak. This one was found on Arbor Road in Paso Robles | Source
This oak is about three times the height of the house it's next to. It lives across the street from my mom's house in the Riverbank Tract in Paso Robles. It is February, so it has lost its leaves.
This oak is about three times the height of the house it's next to. It lives across the street from my mom's house in the Riverbank Tract in Paso Robles. It is February, so it has lost its leaves. | Source
I call this oak the survivor oak because it's half missing. It was probably stuck by lightning in this vineyard on Arbor Road where it lives in Paso Robles. I love the way it looks in front of the setting sun.
I call this oak the survivor oak because it's half missing. It was probably stuck by lightning in this vineyard on Arbor Road where it lives in Paso Robles. I love the way it looks in front of the setting sun. | Source
This is another "broken" tree that lives on Arbor Road in Paso Robles.
This is another "broken" tree that lives on Arbor Road in Paso Robles. | Source
The weather has also changed the shape of this Arbor Road tree a bit. You can see the bent-over shape and the broken branches.
The weather has also changed the shape of this Arbor Road tree a bit. You can see the bent-over shape and the broken branches. | Source
I believe brokenness gives trees more character. Arbor Road seems to be hard on trees, for this one lives there, too.
I believe brokenness gives trees more character. Arbor Road seems to be hard on trees, for this one lives there, too. | Source
This tree was the first I'd ever seen growing parallel to the ground. A friend told me this can happen when the wind blows a young tree down and it just continues to grow that way. This tree can be seen along the Union Road Wine Trail in Paso Robles.
This tree was the first I'd ever seen growing parallel to the ground. A friend told me this can happen when the wind blows a young tree down and it just continues to grow that way. This tree can be seen along the Union Road Wine Trail in Paso Robles. | Source
This small mishapen oak in the center is framed by the branches of a much larger cousin. This is another Arbor Road scene,
This small mishapen oak in the center is framed by the branches of a much larger cousin. This is another Arbor Road scene, | Source
Another Arbor Road Oak
Another Arbor Road Oak | Source
I love seeing the top of an oak against the sky. This one lives on Arbor Road, but you will find similar views almost anywhere in the rural parts of Paso Robles.
I love seeing the top of an oak against the sky. This one lives on Arbor Road, but you will find similar views almost anywhere in the rural parts of Paso Robles. | Source
I call this the dancing tree. It, too, lives on Arbor Road
I call this the dancing tree. It, too, lives on Arbor Road | Source
Oak in Templeton sunset.
Oak in Templeton sunset. | Source
This oak gives shade to visitors of the Veris Tasting Room on Bethel Road in Templeton
This oak gives shade to visitors of the Veris Tasting Room on Bethel Road in Templeton | Source
These oaks are some of many which line the streets of Bethel Road in Templeton between Highway 46 West and Las Tablas Road.
These oaks are some of many which line the streets of Bethel Road in Templeton between Highway 46 West and Las Tablas Road. | Source
This tree lives in a meadow near Pomar Junction Tasting Room and Vineyards. The picture was taken in August during the dry season.
This tree lives in a meadow near Pomar Junction Tasting Room and Vineyards. The picture was taken in August during the dry season. | Source
This was taken on El Pomar Road near Finley Family Farms in rural Templeton. It's proof that around almost every bend in the rural North County, you will find oaks.
This was taken on El Pomar Road near Finley Family Farms in rural Templeton. It's proof that around almost every bend in the rural North County, you will find oaks. | Source

North San Luis Obispo County is Full of Oak Trees

If you drive more than a mile on the on the streets or backroads of North San Luis Obispo County on the Central Coast of California, it's almost impossible not to see a vineyard or an oak tree. Every day as I drive the four miles home from town on Highway 46 West, I must pass over a hundred oak trees and several vineyards. It's hard to find a vineyard without at least one oak tree among the vines.

The oak trees were definitely here first. Some of them preceded the Spanish fathers who founded our California missions. California white oaks can live 400 years. The tree on the right, and most of the others you see here are probably California white oaks. They are deciduous, formidable skeletons once they lose their leaves, which provide stark contrast to the winter skies. This particular tree is across the street from a house that used to be my mother's. It is one of the few in this gallery that is not in a rural area. But that's not unusual. Oaks are protected here, and if you want to build where there is an oak tree, you'd better plan on working it into your landscaping.

Most of the trees pictured here live on Arbor Road. It begins from Highway 46 West by the Summerwood Tasting Room in Paso Robles (which, incidentally, means Pass of the Oaks) and goes north. Where it appears to dead-end, the paved road curves to the left and becomes Live Oaks. If you continue going straight, Arbor Road is unpaved most of the way to where it turns into Kiler Canyon Road, which ends in the north at First Street. The pictures were taken mostly on this unpaved extension of Arbor Road, except for other survivor tree in the sunset. It was taken near where Arbor and Live Oaks Roads meet. Don't forget to click on these pictures to see them full size so you don't miss the details.

One thing that makes oaks so unusual is the assortment of shapes they are found in. They are shaped by the nutrients or lack of them in the soil, the weather, their age, and the sort of neighbors they have. Young trees are slender as they reach for the sun and its light, only developing the typical mounded crown as they mature. If there is intense crowding by other trees, they may grow taller and spread out less as they compete for light.

The trees to the right illustrate how easily the oaks can be harmed. These oaks crack easily. We sometimes have vicious winds here in the North County, and every winter we see broken limbs like these, but they give these trees character. Most of these trees are in open places, and make a good target for high winds. Some are on the tops of hills or slopes. The white oaks don't have the strength of many of the other oak species.

The small tree to the right appears to be already in weakened condition, and has been bent by the wind, which appears to have broken one of its branch ends off. It's also possible the deer have nibbled at the ends. You can see how the upper branches seem to twist and turn and tangle with each other. This is typical of oaks. In some of the more regular shaped oaks with mound-like crowns, the tangle of branches may be hidden from view, covered by the canopy of leaves. I will soon be writing a hub that shows the many faces of the oak on our own property from each side and under the crown, where this tangle of limbs is very evident.

To the right is one more broken oak. It may have been weakened by a disease or fungus that rotted part of it away and made it more susceptible to the to the harm a violent winter storm could inflict. It would appear this tree is fighting hard to survive, since its leaves are so sparse.

The next tree to the right is hard to see unless you click on it. It is one of the few trees in this collection that does not live on Arbor Road, but in East Paso Robles. There are actually two trees here, but the one growing along the ground is hard to see because it almost appears to be part of its companion. For me it was a strange sight. I'm told the wind bent it to the ground when it was young and it just kept growing that way.

Likewise the tree I want to point out in the next picture down is almost hidden by its neighbor. The tree in front of it seems to want to shield its deformed young cousin from public view with its long, leafy branch.


Learning More about Oak Trees

Oaks of North America
Oaks of North America

This book is very good for information on the major oak species found in North America. For each species there are photographs of the whole tree, leaves, acorns, and bark. There is also a map showing the range of this species. The text describes the growth habit, the bark, the leaves, the fruit, the twigs and buds, the wood, and the range. I found this book a great help in identifying trees for purposes of this hub. It's a good field guide, even though the pictures are all in black and white.

 
The Life of an Oak: An Intimate Portrait
The Life of an Oak: An Intimate Portrait

This book is illustrated with original drawings, charts, and sketches, as well as photographs. Most are in color, but a few sketches and diagrams are in black and white.

This book explains everything about how oak trees grow and what each part of the tree does. It explains the shape and functions of roots, trunk, limbs, branches, leaves, and epiphytes -- those plants that grow on the oak such as moss, lichens, and fungi. It also describes the oak parasites, such as mistletoe. The text is accompanied by lavish illustrations.

The author discusses the life cycle of the oak in great illustrated detail that will satisfy the botany student as well as the layman. It begins with the flower, and has a chart that sums up the life cycle of a white oak through two years. The diagrams in this section are fabulous.

The book ends with a section on oak diversity, relationships, and evolution, followed by some visits to specific oak habitats. In this section you will find an assortment of color leaf sketches from various species and photos of bark patterns. The acorn drawings are a great help in identifying a particular species.

Anyone with a real interest in oak trees should own this book. It is detailed enough to satisfy the scientist who is interested in the chemistry, but readable enough to be useful to a layman. It has helped me a lot as I worked with my photos and tried to understand what I was seeing. It was one of the sources I used in the writing of this hub.

 
Californian's Guide to the Trees among Us, A
Californian's Guide to the Trees among Us, A

I was introduced to this book at the Paso Robles Lavender Festival. The author led a tree walk through the park, showing us things about the trees there we had never noticed. He then gave a plug for this book, and I had to look it over, since it dealt with the trees in my area. I was all set to buy it that day, but they didn't take credit cards, so I couldn't. I hadn't brought my check book. I was pleased to find that Amazon carries the book, and I plan to buy my copy tonight so I can refer to it before I publish this.

 

Bethel and El Pomar Oak Trees

One road I visit often is Bethel Road in Templeton. Many vineyards and tasting rooms are located there, so there are many oak trees, including the first one at the top of this hub. Above, and to the right is one of my favorite oaks in front of the Veris tasting room. Veris also has a lovely rose garden near its patio for guests to enjoy. All around it are its vineyards. Part of Bethel Road itself is also lined with oaks, as you can see in the picture to the right.

These last two oaks live on El Pomar Road in Templeton. I visited the Pomar Junction Vineyard the first time the day I took them. The ride out there was quite scenic, and there were more oak trees than I could count. By now, you should know that is typical of North San Luis Obispo County. The oaks themselves should be listed as one of our major tourist attractions, but, since viewing them is free, they don't get much advertising. If you come for our Central Coast wines, though, seeing the oaks will be included in your experience at no extra cost.


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I'd love to have your feedback here. 18 comments

TeriSilver profile image

TeriSilver 5 years ago from The Buckeye State

Interesting article and well-written. I have several oak trees in my yard, one is well over 250 years old (my husband's family has owned the land we live on since 1832 and we've heard the stories passed down from his grandfather about the full grown oak from when gramps was a little boy). Yes, our tree is huge. Thumbs up!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

The best pictures yet. I had no idea that there was so much variation in oak trees.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

They are so majestic and graceful. Thanks for a fascinating Hub. I love trees, flowers and Nature.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Teri, how wonderful to have so many oaks on your own property! I don't know how old my one oak is, but I'd guess by its size it's at least a hundred years old. I hope your land will be able to stay in your family.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

phdast7, Thank you. It was very hard choosing just these few from the hundreds of oak pictures I have taken, and every one is different.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Hyphenbird, majestic is an apt term for oaks, and many are also graceful. Rugged is another word that comes to mind. Thanks for stopping by.


anglnwu profile image

anglnwu 5 years ago

Wow, what a collection of oak tree pictures. You have even written a very detailed hub about them. Awesome!


frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 5 years ago from Central United States of America

I like observing the shapes of trees as I walk in the park. Your drive down 'oak lane' must bring something new to you each season.

There is an ancient Live oak tree in NW Florida where I lived as a teen, that was huge when I lived there long ago. Visited it a few years back and it is evidently dying as it has few leaves in spring. Guessing it must be over a hundred years old: I did not know some oaks could live to 400 years. Thank you for sharing here!


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

anginwu, we were supposed to explain the pictures. There is so much more that could have been said, because there is so much to learn about oaks. If only they could speak our language!


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

frogyfish, it's a shame to see an oak die. It seems they should go on forever. I love seeing them everywhere I go, and you are right. I do live to observe the seasonal changes. The white oaks are beginning to lose their leaves now, but are still far from bare. A storm is blowing in today, and I expect a lot more leaves will be lost. Thanks for stopping by.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

We have a couple of live oaks and one water oak tree on our property. I liked all of your photos but found that one of Heart Hill fascinating. Amazing how the oak trees formed that perfect heart shape in the middle of the vineyard. You surely live in a pretty part of the country!


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Peggy, Heart Hill has been a sort of local landmark for me ever since I moved to this area in 1993. The vineyard was planted and the tasting room built only a few short years ago. I don't know if the owners named it Heart Hill or if it was always called that. I never heard the name until the winery was built.


aethelthryth profile image

aethelthryth 5 years ago from American Southwest

I grew up where the local oaks were "scrub oaks". I know those very well, but only know real oaks when I see what I think of as "scrub oak leaves" on very tall trees. Thank you for teaching me more about these trees.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

aethelthryth, that's funny, because I have trouble identifying the scrub oaks. I'm going to order some better field guides tonight. The live oaks are pretty easy to distinguish from the white oaks, but many of the oaks have hybridized and there may be different sorts of leaves and acorns on the same tree. Most field guide books don't delve into these. Also, the same variety may have different names. Makes life more interesting. Thanks for stopping by.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

I love your photos of the broken trees. Nothing quite so inspiring as seeing a tree that is half gone still surviving....it is kinda sorta a life lesson in my humble opinion.

Great photos and would love to see oak trees again. Marvelous old gnarly survivors they are....kinda like the 'old people of trees'.

Voted up and many other things~


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Audrey, I'm also partial to the broken trees, as you can probably tell. Oaks are a bit like old people, though they aren't as old as the redwoods. All of them make me feel pretty small and insignificant. Also young:)


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

I love trees, and especially the Oak. I really enjoyed your photo gallery of these magnificent trees. Well written and wonderful resources you've added as well. Great job! voted up and awesome.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Thanks for spending some time here with me, Denise. I appreciate your kind words.

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