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Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

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Quercus gambelii (Gambel oak)
Reveal, James L.

Quercus gambelii

Quercus gambelii Nutt.

Gambel Oak, Rocky Mountain White Oak, Utah White Oak

Fagaceae (Beech Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

A small, round-crowned tree or clump shrub, sometimes forming thickets, Gambels oak occasionally reaches 50 ft. but is usually no taller than 30 ft. Its deeply-lobed, deciduous leaves are bright green above and paler below, turning brown or sometimes red in fall. Tree with rounded crown, often in dense groves; or a thicket-forming shrub.

Gambel's Oak is the common oak of the Rocky Mountains, abundant in Grand Canyon National Park. It is closely related to White Oak (Quercus alba L.) of the eastern United States. The foliage is browsed by deer and sometimes by livestock. Wild turkeys, squirrels, and other wildlife, as well as hogs and other domestic animals eat the sweetish acorns. The wood is used mainly for fenceposts and fuel. This species is named for William Gambel (1821-49), a naturalist from Philadelphia.


From the Image Gallery

23 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Inflorescence: Catkin
Fruit Type: Nut
Size Notes: Up to about 50 feet tall, usually much shorter.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May


USA: AZ , CO , NM , NV , OK , SD , TX , UT , WY
Native Distribution: Mts. from Carbon Co., WY & CO to s. NV, s. to Trans-Pecos TX & n. Mex.
Native Habitat: Dry, high-elevation hills, slopes & canyons

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rocky soils. Acid-based, Calcareous, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam Clay
Conditions Comments: Train as a tree by pruning off suckers when young. Very slow growing.


Use Ornamental: Attractive
Use Wildlife: Provides food and cover for deer, small mammals, and birds. Browse, Cover, Nesting site, Substrate-insectivorous birds, Fruit-birds, Fruit-mammals
Attracts: Birds

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Colorado Hairstreak
(Hypaurotis crysalus)

Adult Food Source
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: Oaks are most often propagated from seed. No pretreatment is necessary. Plant immediately – outdoors or in deep containers to accomodate long initial taproot. Many oaks require cold temperatures to initiate shoot development. Protect outdoor beds with
Seed Collection: Best quality acorns are picked or shaken from the tree. Collect when color has changed to brown. Best if sown immediately as acorns lose viability quickly in storage. Short-term storage in moist, shaded saw dust or sand. Acorns to be sown immediately can be soaked in hot water for 15 min. to prevent weevil infestation. Stored seed should be fumigated with methyl bromide.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Prevent complete soil dryness, May be pruned 12 mo. out of the year, Prune to maintain shape, Fertilize 3 times a year with lawn fertilizer 3:1:2 ratio

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Replacing grass with xeric plants in Nevada
March 20, 2009
I am looking to xeriscape my front yard - remove all grass! I am thinking 3-4 larger plants: bird of paradise (mesquite??), aloe, and ..?? Also, possibly a Chilean mesquite. Do you have suggestio...
view the full question and answer

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR


Bibref 766 - Dale Groom's Texas Gardening Guide (2002) Groom, D.
Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Quercus gambelii in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Quercus gambelii in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Quercus gambelii


Record Modified: 2022-10-10
Research By: TWC Staff

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