Photogenic Oak Trees in North San Luis Obispo County
An Oak Tree in Winter
Two Oaks above Vineyard
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
Tall Oaks at Valhalla Vineyards
Veris Vineyards are Full of Oak Trees
Pomar Junction Oak
Heart Hill in Paso Robles
Oak Behind Niner Tasting Room
Oaks Come in Many Shapes and Sizes
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
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.
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.
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.