Friday, April 8, 2011

A red oak is a red oak is a red oak...?

I took advantage of the gorgeous weather in the middle part of the day (this being Minnesota and three hours later it is, of course, no longer gorgeous) to do some raking.  One of the many ironies here at Oak Watch is that while our yard is very heavily treed, we don't have any oaks... other than my little nursery growing potted trees. (BTW, I was wildly and unexpectedly successful in my negotiations with my daughter to use part of "her" garden to grow my oaks this year.  I get 1/4 of it.  The shady part.  Which is much more than I expected!)

Why was I raking in spring?  It sure wasn't for the pleasure of inflaming my mold allergies (that was just an added bonus; we don't get into pollen season for 4-6 weeks yet, and I'll give you one guess as to which tree's pollen I'm most allergic to).  It's because our street is home to several northern red oaks.  Red oaks that finally get around to dropping their leaves a) the day after I rake in autumn, and b) the day before the first snow of the year.  And judging by the sheer volume of oak leaves in my yard every spring when the snow melts, it would seem that every oak on the street is located directly upwind from us (upwind in this case being north, west, and south).

(Click to enlarge)

A taxonomist would probably tell you that all of the oaks on my street are northern red oak, Quercus rubra.  I picked these three leaves out of the same leave pile.  The middle one, I'm sure, is from a tree I have written about before that I'm convinced is a Q. rubra x Q. palustris (pin oak) hybrid. 

No great overriding point here except a sunny day and a turn at the rake gave me another opportunity to muse about oak taxonomy, variation, and hybridization... and how, in my humble opinion (who am I kidding? my opinion has never, ever been humble) 2 out of every 3 oaks you see is a hybrid (and they hybridized with the 3rd oak you see).

The background, by the way, is a red oak floor I installed myself.  I thought it appropos.

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