2e16aad84411fb6d111a1a90d1e2bd07

There are several rare plants in Orange County.

rvanderhoff

In fact, I’ve written about a few of them here in this column over the years; a rare coconut palm in Newport Beach, an improbable Royal Poinciana in Placentia, a mature Traveler’s Palm in Fountain Valley. These are indeed rare trees.

However, each of these are planted trees, tended to by a gardener. With enough attention and some clever manipulation it amazes me what we can grow here in the wonderful climate of Orange County. But what about those plants that don’t have the benefit of a gardener? What about those trees that are rare here for other reasons; not because of cultivation, but natural rarities. I’m fascinated by these wild, but rare plants.

Valley Oaks (Quercus lobata) are one of California’s signature trees. The largest of all of North America’s oak species, these are majestic plants and are native only to California. Throughout California’s central valley to as far north as Mendocino County these majestic trees are visible for many miles. The largest trees shade an area 150 feet in diameter, above a trunk that can measure 12 feet in girth. Picture a grassy pasture, a huge spreading tree and maybe an old farmhouse in the far distance. This is that tree.

Quercus_lobata_Moro_Cyn_2

Valley Oaks don’t much care for the southern one third of California. It’s just a little too warm and dry for them down here. The San Fernando Valley, North of Los Angeles, is about the furthest south they will wander.

However, back in 1983, one of our state’s top field botanists discovered a single Valley Oak tree right here in Orange County, growing wild. A young Fred Roberts took a sample, pressed it, noted the location and sent it off to a herbarium – sort of a museum for plant specimens. Fred found the lonely tree growing in Moro Canyon, which is now part of Crystal Cove State Park.

Quercus_lobata_Moro_Cyn_1_2

I have hiked Moro Canyon several times and each time I have looked for this tree. But looking for one tree among thousands, in a wide canyon almost four miles long, is like looking for one life raft in the Pacific Ocean. Still, I wasn’t giving up. I had found other rare native trees in Orange County; a small stand of Madrones in Trabuco Canyon, Tecate Cypress in the Northern Santa Ana Mountains and a few Summer Holly trees on a hillside South of Laguna Beach. So on Sunday, July 31, I decided I would take another trip through Moro Canyon and search again.

I have a habit of not planning my hikes very far in advance. I enjoy the spontaneity of deciding where I might be travelling as I back out of the driveway. But on the evening before this trip I decided to send Fred a note and let him know I was heading out the next morning to again look for the tree he had found 28 years earlier. At 9:37 PM I hit the “send” button.

Quercus_lobata_Moro_Cyn_2_3

To my surprise, thirty minutes later I got an encouraging note back from Fred. “Glad to hear you’re looking for that tree Ron. I haven’t checked on it in many years.” Fred continued, “The area burned in 1993 and it may have been lost. Let me now what you find”. He then checked his notes and relayed a general description of the tree’s location. Next morning, off I went.

The morning was damp. An unusual summer rainstorm had fallen during the night, complete with lightning and thunder. Drizzle was still falling as I made my way up the canyon. I was scanning every tree, both near and far, searching again for what had eluded me on prior visits. But this time I had Fred’s advice.

After a couple of miles I noticed a dead snag rising out of the prolific toyon and sumac in the canyon. I stopped and looked a bit closer. There, just to the left of the old, dead tree were a few distinctively lobed leaves. It was a Valley Oak! I had found it – one of OC’s rarest plants!

The original tree, never as large or majestic as its happier Northern family, had indeed burned in 1993. Essentially killed, the tree’s dead, dry carcass was broken and rotting.

But all was not lost. At the base of the old, burned tree, three or four young sprouts had emerged several years ago from the roots. Fed by the ashes of the fire, they had now reached through the dense brush and had managed about twelve feet in height. The leaves were healthy and the tree, although precarious in the event of another fire, was re-growing.

One of Orange County’s rarest trees, our only Valley Oak tree, was still alive.

Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens, Corona del Mar.

Questions from Readers August 13.

Are Lisianthus annuals or perennials?

Gladys, Newport Beach

Answer:

Technically, most references still state that Lisianthus are perennials, growing from year to year. But the reality is here in Southern California Lisianthus are pretty miserable once cool weather is upon us. They stop growing, decline quickly and usually rot away in the cool, wet winter. They are great summer flowers Gladys, but rather that try to nurse them through the winter, you’re better off replacing them with a cool season alternative like, stock, cyclamen, snapdragons or calendulas.

Assembly_7-24-10_4

Plant Care Reminders

Edible Sage Monthly Plant Care
Herbs Julie Bawden-Davis

Sage - Common Edible (Salvia officinalis) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Rose Monthly Plant Care Midwest
Roses Proven Winners

Rose (Rosa hybrid 'Home Run') - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Pea - Garden (Pisum sativum) - Monthly…

4314 Julie Bawden-Davis
Garden Pea Monthly Plant Care
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Abutilon spp. (Flowering Maple) Monthly…

20902 Steve Brigham
Abutilon Plant Care
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum x ashei…

3146 Steve Brigham
Blueberry Monthly Plant Care
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Gardening Articles

Default Image
Tips, Tricks & Ideas Garden City Seeds

How to Grow 100 lbs. of Potatoes in 4 Square Feet

We found this great growing guide on how to grow 100lbs of potatoes in 4 square feet on the Irish-Eyes Garden Seeds website. It was so intriguing, escpecially for the home gardener with limited space,
Epipactis gigantea
Natives Ron Vanderhoff

Orange Counties Wild Orchid - Epipactis gigantea

I’ve been gardening in Orange County for a long time and I’ve been hiking and exploring our local wild areas for even longer.

My Native Plant Garden, err Laboratory

3914
Srctostaphylos 'Howard Mcminn'
It’s a few minutes before 7 o’clock in the morning, the neighbors are asleep and I’m…

Can Gardeners Appreciate the Fungus Amongus?

4112
Fungus on Soil Wood
For sure, if there’s one thing a purist doesn’t want to see in their garden, it’s…

Ron Vanderhoff - Southwest

7059
Ron Vanderhoff
Region: Southwest

Plant Recommendations

Artichoke
Plant Recommendations Richard Frost

Annual Fruits & Vegetables - Southern California

Richard Frost's Top Plant Recommendations: Favorite Annual Fruits & Vegetables for Southern California
Michelia champaca flower
Plant Recommendations Brenda Gousha

Trees - Southern California by Brenda Gousha

Brenda Gousha's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Trees for Southern California. 

Blue - Green Foliage - Southern…

4024 Don Walker
Cedrus atlantica
Don Walker's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Blue - Green Foliage for Southern…

Common Fruit Trees for the Coast -…

16399 Lucy Warren
Anna Apples
Lucy Warren's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Common Fruit Trees for the Southern…

Excellent Flowering Plants for the…

11249 Vicky Giannangelo
Aquilegia hybrida 'Origami'
Frank & Vickies Plant Recommendations: Excellent Flowering Plants for the Desert -…

Featured Plant Care

Bird of Paradise Monthly Plant Care

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Angel Trumpet Monthly Plant Care

Angels Trumpet (Brugmansia spp.) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Shrubs
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Phormium Monthly Plant Care

Flax - New Zealand (Phormium spp.) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Purple Caribbean Copper Plant Monthly Plant Care

Caribbean Copper Plant - Purple (Euphorbia cotinifolia var. Atropurpurea) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Shrubs
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Latest Articles

Six things for your indoor plants during winter

Do These Six Things to Keep Indoor Plants Healthy During Winter

Winter has hit southern California along with the rest of the U.S. No polar vortex here,…
Gardening Professionals and Clubs

Gardening Pros & Clubs: Using the Great Features on the Mulch

We'd like to help connect gardening professional and home gardeners. We've designed a…
Star Jasmine Monthly Plant Care

Jasmine - Star (Trachelospermum jasminoides) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Vines
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Bababerry Raspberry Monthly Plant Care

Raspberry - Bababerry (Rubus idaeus 'Bababerry') - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Edibles
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Popular Articles

Baseball Field Maintenance

Baseball Field Maintenance - A General Guide for Fields of All Levels

in Lawn
More great baseball field resources can be found here (including a pdf version of this…
Queen Palm Care & Use

The Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) Care & Use

in Trees
Jungle Music Palms and Cycads is a family owned and operated business established in 1977
Microgreens

What are Microgreens and How to Grow Them

in Edibles
Microgreens are tiny leafed vegetables that are grown from seed and require very little…
Kahili Ginger Plant Care

Hedychium gardnerianum (Kahili Ginger) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

User Guides (Slide)

Popular Recommendations (Slide)