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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Greatest Oaks On Earth

El Roble Grande, a Valley Oak, Quercus Lobata, the biggest individual specimen oak tree on earth, stood south of Lower Lake until it blew over in a storm in 1952. Lake County still contains many great and venerable oaks. Each oak is a world unto itself, a lynchpin in a complex chain of species interdependencies. If this be heaven, then the Valley Oak is our sacred tree.

Imposing specimens of Quercus Lobata, characterize the bottom lands and riparian areas of the county. In the nineteenth century Big Valley was one vast savanna of Valley Oaks. It's interesting to search google maps of Big Valley to discover where and to what extent the ancient ones survive.

An early photograph of the Santa Clara Valley shows the realm of the Valley Oak now despoiled by suburban sprawl.

Today's Champion Valley Oak, The Greatest Oak On Earth, lives on a ranch in Round Valley, Mendocino County. Measured at a height of 4.5 feet off the ground, the girth of the trunk is 348". The trunk diameter is over 9'. The tree is 163' tall with a crown width of 99'.

By comparison the largest of the 300 to 500-year-old Valley Oaks on our ranch along Kelsey Creek, measures 171" in girth and 5' in diameter. In descending order of magnitude the next three oaks on our place come in at 150" girth (4' diameter), 131" girth (3' diameter), and 129" girth (3' diameter). These are impressive trees. They are remnant specimens of the aboriginal forest, which supported the Pomo tribe, the tule elk and the grizzly bear. To this day they support the latest generations of gall wasps, acorn woodpeckers, quail, jays, nuthatches and squirrels.

Nineteenth century painters of California often focused on the oaks.

Thomas Hill, in his Morning, Clear Lake, makes an environmentalist statement by depicting the stumps.

Granville Redmond's oaks.

William Wendt's oaks.