Oak tree in California with "shaggy" leaves growing from trunk

Avid_rosarianMay 16, 2014

Living in the San Gabriel Valley, I'm used to seeing a wide variety of oaks, including so many varieties of California Live Oak species that I've never quite tried to learn all of them, but this particular tree looked so strange I couldn't help wondering if the growth habit was natural or a sign of disease/insect infestation (in which case, since it's planted in a public park with many other oak specimens, should I bring it to the attention of the parks department before the problem spreads?)

As you can see from the following photo, it's an old, well established tree (I'll post another separately that gives a closeup of one of the bark along with some of the green shoots visible at eye level). Its bark seemed almost corrugated, it was so rough and ridged, and quite grey as many California oaks are, but it was really the shaggy green growth along the bark that surprised and somewhat worried me. Can someone confirm whether or not this is normal for any oak species (and if so, just out of curiosity, which one?) or is it a sign of disease?

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Here is a closeup of the trunk at eye level, showing how rough the bark is (which by itself makes it quite different from most California live oaks I've ever seen, which are always rough but never so "ridged" that I've ever noticed) and of what look like healthy leaves growing from spots where no leaves seem like they should be emerging.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 1:13PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

It looks like Cork Oak, Quercus suber, that is sprouting new growth.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 1:20PM
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I have to admit that the bark struck me as being a bit cork-like when I saw the tree, but it was the extent of the new growth that got my attention and concern.

I have read in the newspaper that Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora ramorum) and several of the associated beetles that particularly gravitate towards afflicted oaks are moving into the area. Since we have numerous oaks that are hundreds and hundreds of years old (that are quite precious to me as local landmarks), it's easy to imagine that the growth might be a sign that this specimen needs to be removed to save other trees, but our parks infrastructure is sufficiently beleaguered, between the drought and other budget drains that I don't want to bother them with inexpert guesses.

I would truly appreciate it if anyone who has seen anything similar that turned out to have been benign could reassure me -- but if the opposite is the case, I'd appreciate that confirmation too!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 1:42PM
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These are epicormic sprouts, not an uncommon occurrence with cork oaks, among a number of other tree species. Not a disease, not a concern at all.

FYI, the bark ('cork') on a cork oak can get as much as 20" thick in time, allowing the tree to withstand brush fires easily - much like the native redwoods with their very thick bark. Interestingly, redwoods also generate a lot of epicormic sprouts.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 2:39PM
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So they're just sorta harmless, pretty green fuzz?

Wonderful news! And very cool to know! Thanks!!!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 4:04PM
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Green "fuzz"?? They're just leaves!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 7:35PM
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