USDA Ecological Section Map
Primary Life FormShrub
DistributionUSA: CA. Mexico (NatureServe)
Endemic to CaliforniaNo
Endemic to California Floristic Province and DesertsNo
Quercus chrysolepis is dominant or co-dominant in the shrub canopy with Ceanothus cuneatus, Ceanothus integerrimus, Ceanothus leucodermis, Quercus berberidifolia, Quercus wislizeni, Toxicodendron diversilobum and Umbellularia californica.
Shrubs < 6 m; canopy is continuous or intermittent. Herbaceous layer is variable.
- Quercus chrysolepis shrubs > 50% relative cover in the shrub canopy (Gordon and White 1994).
Commonly found on north-facing upper- or mid-slopes. Soils are rocky.
||Canyon live oak shrub series
||Quercus chrysolepis shrubland alliance
||Scrub oak, Upper montane mixed chaparral
||Interior live oak chaparral, Southern north slope chaparral
|CDFW CA Code
||Mesomorphic Shrub and Herb Vegetation (Shrubland and Grassland)
||Mediterranean Scrub and Grassland
||Californian pre-montane chaparral
Quercus chrysolepis is a widespread and common species in chaparral, forests, and woodlands throughout the state. It is a slow-growing, evergreen shrub or tree. The species reproduces by seed and regenerates by root sprouts. Shrubs produce large acorn crops at irregular intervals, and the seeds germinate without stratification. California ground squirrels and jays cache the acorns, which other birds, livestock, and wildlife eat. Plants are shade tolerant. Older shrubs act as nurse plants, moderating environmental conditions and offering seedlings and saplings protection (Tirmenstein 1989b).
Quercus chrysolepis is one of the most morphologically variable oaks in the state. Shrubby plants have been called var. nana, but recent treatments do not recognize the variety (Hickman 1993, Nixon 2002). In addition, Q. chrysolepis hybridizes with Q. vacciniifolia at lower montane elevations in the northern California mountains (Nixon 2002). The unnamed hybrid is shrubby. Leaves are similar to those of both parents, and the stems and twigs are thick and stiff. In contrast to Q. vacciniifolia, it is not easy to walk through a stand of shrubby Q. chrysolepis. We have two separate Quercus chrysolepis alliances based on habit (see the Quercus chrysolepis forest alliance).
||Trees, shrubs; evergreen
|Mode of dispersal
|Mode of sprouting
|Survivability after fire/disturbance
||Fire-hardy to fire-sensitive; high sprouter
||Low to medium
Quercus chrysolepis sprouts from the stumps or root crowns after fire. Acorns germinate readily but are vulnerable to heat. Seedling establishment and sprouting take place in old-aged stands during fire-free intervals.
|Fire return interval
||Medium (30-100+ years)
||Medium to large—up to and beyond stand
||Low to moderate
||Active-independent crown fire
The range of Quercus chrysolepis includes the Central California Coast Ranges (M262A), Klamath Mountains (M261A), Northern California Coast Ranges (M261B), Northern California Interior Coast Ranges (M261C), Sierra Nevada (M261E), and Southern Cascades (M261D).
- Southern California Mountains and Valleys (M262Ba-h, Bl-p). Stands exist over broad areas at higher elevations in the Peninsular and Transverse ranges (Gordon and White 1994). They range higher than the Quercus wislizeni shrubland alliance and often occur on ridges and upper slopes.
As with Quercus wislizeni, uncertainty of the balance between genetic and historic factors as natural influences on this alliance does not afford us the ability to offer strong advice for management. In many parts of its range this alliance appears in chaparral environments at higher elevations than corresponding forest and woodland stands of Q. chrysolepis. This suggests that stands have a natural ecological separation based on both genetics and fire history. Stands with Ceanothus suggest high fire frequencies.
- Quercus chrysolepis 
- Quercus chrysolepis - Ceanothus integerrimus , 
-  Gordon, H.J.;White, T.C. 1994
-  White, S.D. 1994a
- Griffin, J.R. 1977
- Hanes, T.L. 1977
- Hanes, T.L. 1981
- Horton, J.S. 1960
- Keeley, J.E.;Keeley, S.C. 1988
- Minnich, R.A. 1976
- Pase, C.P. 1982a
- Tirmenstein, D. 1989b
- White, S.D.;Sawyer, J.O. 1995