Plant of the Month – Oregon White Oak

when I describe the limbs as muscular,
do you see it?
the oak,
the Oregon White Oak,
standing solitary in its golden savanna?
or if I say scrub,
do you know you’re on lean land
and the oak grows to fit?

a tree that makes its home
from Southern California
to Vancouver Island,
from rawboned high-ground
to saturated lowlands,
must be a master of adaptability.



ornamented with staghorn lichen and usnea,
beards flecked from the feast,
licorice fern-fringed sleeves
of mossy emerald velvet,
and high tangles of mistletoe
enchanting lover’s lips
this holiday season.

kiss me under the oak,
kiss me in the forest serenaded by
robins dining on mistletoe berries,
bushtits gleaning tiny morsels limb to limb,
chattering gray squirrels guarding acorn hoards,
woodpeckers keeping rhythm.



the life of an Oregon White Oak
holds the lives of so many others.
a keystone species
we say theses days.
a mother, a relative,
one who gives an acorn feast
in exchange for fire on the land,
say the indigenous elders
living with oak for centuries.

a tree of ceremony:
I planted a young one
in the hell-strip,
a private birthday act
dedicated to the future.



Janet and Jim and Rowan
planted one
together as a family
renewing their land with natives.



the region defined by this tree is
our Willamette Valley home.
land mostly razed and paved,
plowed and no-longer burned
as it was for generations before,
fire and oak as companionable as
free-flowing rivers and salmon.

see the sinewed limbs
strong, proud,
heritage habitat
standing in the Mt. Pisgah meadows.

see too: spooky thickets,
close young saplings
dancing their youthful dance
on reforested Howard Buford

and atop Skinner’s Butte:
tracing dark-limbed lightening
against the setting western sun.

from I-5:
sentinels in the sheep pastures,
guardians of vineyards,
remnants of the wild in strip malls
and rest areas.

and now,
see possibility:
such an icon in your own yard?
plant one in the sun
to make shade
for your children’s children.
slow growth
long life
a gift for
the caterpillars,
the birds,
the lovers kissing
beneath mistletoe-laden limbs.

a gift for your grandchildren
a hundred holidays hereafter.


2 comments on “Plant of the Month – Oregon White Oak”

  1. Jane Ann Falls says:

    our home property at the top of Chambers is festooned with oaks and doug fir and loads of the beautiful trees. We have been adding vine maple for additional color and I’m hoping to add more. The last one were bare root and I must say they are tricky to get going. Blessings of growth and joy this shortest of days.

    1. Leslie Davis says:

      What good fortune you have to steward such well-treed land, Jane! Lovely! Try using a mycorrhizal inoculant when planting bare root vine maples. Down to Earth’s bio-live does the trick.

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