encina ( Quercus agrifolia ) California live oak or Coast live oak

Pronunciation key

( en-sēnə)



[Sp. < LL. ilicina, holm oak < L. ilex kind of oak].

The live oak, especially the California Live Oak.

According to The Trees of North America, Alan Mitchell and David Moore ©1987

The Live Oaks are a relatively small group confined to North America. Many species thrive in the southwest United States and two in the southeastern regions. They are evergreen, a term used for any evergreen oak including the European Holm oak which belongs to another group altogether.

The Live Oaks were not distinguished as a group by Sargent in his 1905 Manual of the Trees of North America, nor in its revisions to date (1987). They were partly placed as an evergreen section of the Willow oaks and partly as evergreen sections of White oaks. The division was between those in which the acorn is two years maturing, taken as Willow oaks and those with a one-year acorn. Live oaks are in general, slowly growing yet long life-span trees with small, thick and hard leaves, entire or spine-toothed and rarely with noticeable lobing. The western species inhabit hot sandy hillsides and dry rocky canyons. The two eastern species are on the Coastal Plain where there is heavy summer rainfall in sandy, quickly draining terrain.

The Coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia seems to have been the victim of an error in its botanical name as Agrifola means field-leafed where "aquifolia" means holly-leafed, must have been intended. It is native to near the coast in Mendocino County, California south to the border and is much seen from the Bay Area south. The bark of young trees is very smooth and black. The underside of the leaf has tufts of hairs in the vein-angles.

Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom Plantae – Vegetal, plants
Subkingdom Viridaeplantae – green plants
Infrakingdom Streptophyta – land plants
Division Tracheophyta – vascular plants, tracheophytes
Subdivision Spermatophytina – spermatophytes, seed plants
Infradivision Angiospermae – flowering plants, angiosperms
Class Magnoliopsida
Superorder Rosanae
Order Fagales
Family Fagaceae
Genus Quercus L. – chêne, oak
Species Quercus agrifolia Née – California live oak, coast live oak

References and Further Reading

  • Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language (College Edition) ©1955
  • The Trees of North America, Alan Mitchell and David Moore ©1987
  • Quercus agrifolia, Née, Taxonomic Serial No.: 19289
  • Quercus agrifolia, Stanford edu, trees
  • CalPhotos,Photo Database, Quercus agrifolia
  • Quercus agrifolia, USDA Forest Service
  • In Poly Canyon, the single dominant species in coastal live oak woodlands is: Coast live oak, encina (Quercus agrifolia, Fagaceae).
  • Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
  • Quercus agrifolia
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