Friday, April 3, 2009

Native Plants Of California ~ #25 In A Series

Classified as a red oak, the coast live oak tree grows to the west of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and all the way down to northern Baja California. The only native oak trees that thrive in our salty, seaside conditions, it grows on coastal hills and plains, where fog buffers them from long summers with little or no rain.

Twelve separate Indian tribes used the acorns as a staple in their diets. In the 18th century, Spaniards burned the wood to fire their adobe kilns, and 18th and 19th century shipbuilders sought the odd branches for special projects. The wood was too gnarled and twisted to be useful in building, but pioneers had need of it for wagon wheels and farm tools. From the middle of the 19th century, plein air painters were fascinated by this evergreen's natural form and the trees have been the subject of countless landscape paintings, and remain a popular subject today.

The cities of San Diego and San Francisco were built after the areas were cleared of native coast live oak trees. Spanish for live oak is "encina", and our town, Encinitas, means "Little Oaks".

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