Tree Book 8: Canyon Live Oak
August 4, 2012
Southern Arizona’s desert oaks were probably my biggest inspiration for the Tree Book, though this is the first drawing of one of them. I’ve been collecting oak tree photos for ten years. They are “evergreen” species that drop their old leaves in spring as the new leaves are unfolding. Like other dryland oaks, the leaves are small, oval (with or without small teeth) or narrow and pointed, and are thick and leathery. They are beautiful and grow in the wildest, most spectacular Borderland landscapes. The plan is to include about half a dozen species in the Tree Book. This one is the Canyon Live Oak, Quercus chrysolepis, growing in Madera Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains. This species is primarily a California tree and is uncommon in southeastern Arizona, where it is found in only a few shady mountain canyons and does not grow as large as it does in California. The tree in the drawing is old and dying, and has dropped several large branches. But a few sprays of twigs still provide a lacy cover of leaves. This oak is identified by its leaf shape (broadly oval, with small but acutely pointed teeth) and the graceful S-curve of the trunk. The smaller tree in the background (not drawn with much detail) is the Silverleaf Oak, Quercus hypoleucoides, the common Madrean forest tree in the southeastern Arizona mountains.
I chose this particular tree partly for its overall shape, which is unusual enough to make it stand out as a different species even though it is growing in a dense oak wood, and partly for the lovely intricate weathering patterns in the largest dead branch: