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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - February 17, 2009

From: Seattle, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Evergreen oak in Washington
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants, I live in the Pacific Northwest and noticed an oak tree growing near the road that was evergreen (unusual for here). I was so curious that that last time that I passed the tree, I stopped to get a better look. The leaves are tough, lance shaped (Pointed at the tip. Some look oval with no lobes and many have a couple slight lobes with a thorn (like a holly thorn) on them. The color is kind of an olive or army green. Shiny on the top and dull on the underside. I found no acorns, but plenty of the acorn caps, many connected as twins. The average 3/4" across, maybe just a bit less. The site was full sun and damp. The tree was quite old, a good 60 feet and 40 to 50ft spread. The leatherly, shinny leaves with the spikes should help narrow it down. I've just never seen one in these parts and it was doing magnificently. The odd thing was that not each leaf on the twig had the thorns some were smooth along the edges, but they ALL have a thorn at the end of the leaf. Hope you can solve the mystery. Thanks,

ANSWER:

Your description is very good, but we are afraid that it is still not quite enough to identify the mystery tree.  For most species - especially for oak species - we cannot positively identify a plant without seeing good digital images.  If you can take pictures of the tree the next time you pass by, we might be able to ID it for you.  Please go to this link for detailed instructions on how to take and submit images of plants for identification.  For oaks, sharply focused, close-up images of the leaves (top and bottom), acorns and overall shape of the tree are usually most helpful for ID.

 

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