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The biggest valley oak.

The pioneers called it the "mush oak." Apparently they never saw a specimen like this one.

When Captain George Vancouver first gazed upon the interior of California in 1796, there were a million acres of oak savannah dominated by the valley oak. "We entered a country ... |that~ could be compared to a park which had originally been planted with true old English oak...," wrote Vancouver. "|This land~ required only to be adorned with the neat habitations of an industrious people." The people came, they sawed, and the oak woodlands were conquered. Today, all the natural valley-oak woodlands, fewer than 30 stands, would barely cover one-third of the 30,000-acre Diamond H Ranch on which the national champion valley oak stands.

Unlike many of its eastern counterparts, the valley oak's wood, though hard and heavy, is brittle and weak, making it commercially worthless except as firewood. So disgusted were the early pioneers with the wood's properties that they called this noble tree "mush oak."
Common name Valley oak
Scientific name Quercus lobata
Location south of Covelo,
 California
Nominator Willis Linn Jepsen
Owner Steven Bentinck
Most recent measurement 1984
Circumference at 4 1/2 feet 348 in.
Height 163 ft.
Crown spread 99 ft.
Total points 536


The tree's affinity for the deep, fertile soils and high water tables of lowland valleys and foothills brought it into direct conflict with agriculture. Lowered water tables and persistent plowing or grazing have left little chance for the tree's regeneration, which is poor even under natural conditions.

The champion valley oak is a magnificent representative of its kind, surpassing all other champion oaks, including the famous Wye white oak in Maryland. The upper reaches of its massive trunk and limbs are pockmarked with acorn-filled holes, chiseled out and stuffed by provident woodpeckers.

Only just in time have we begun to think of our own future. Like a rare gemstone, the valley oak's scarcity has increased its value and motivated us to begin protecting what little is left.
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Programs
Author:Bronaugh, Whit
Publication:American Forests
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:332
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