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Gambel Oak

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SCIENTIFIC NAME: Quercus gambelii
FAMILY: Fagaceae

Gambel Oak, also known as Scrub Oak, is distributed throughout much of the central Southwestern states. This includes southwestern Colorado, southern Wyoming and Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. It is usually found in open mesa country at elevations of 4500-7500 feet. It is found growing with Ponderosa and Pinyon Pine, Rocky Mountain and OneSeed Juniper and various other species of small oak.

Gambel Oak is usually found growing in thickets along small drainage areas as a mulitstem plant, growing from 10-25’ tall. Occasionally it can also be found as a single stem tree with a dbh reaching18-24”. The Colorado state champion is found in the area of Pagosa Springs in southwestern Colorado on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. It is about 40” in diameter, 68’ tall and a crown spread of 65’, making it huge in comparison to most other Gambel Oaks.

The leaves vary in size, but are usually oblong, with 5-7lobes, deep sinuses, entire or shallowly notched. The upper surface is dark green and shiny, the underside is paler and hairy. The acorn is .9-1.8 cm long, short stalked, set 1/3 –1/2 into the rough scaled cup. The bark is gray and scaly on younger trees and deeply furrowed and rough on mature trees. Gambel Oak is a valuable food source for many types of wildlife.