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Quercus garryana

Quercus garryana

Not all of the plants at the Perennial Plant Sale are herbaceous perennials. One of the trees available is this oak. In Canada, it is commonly known as Garry oak; in the United States, Oregon white oak is preferred used by the USDA PLANTS database, but it seems Garry oak is used far more often (see comments).

Garry oak meadow and woodland ecosystems are among the most endangered in Canada. Quercus garryana is only found in a few locations, primarily southern Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands. Read “Why are Garry oak ecosystems at risk?”, to learn more.

In order to help educate about the Garry oak ecosystem and its constituent organisms, UBC Botanical Garden has identified an area which will one day be developed into a reconstructed Garry oak woodland and meadow. The first elements of the area already exist with seven twenty-year old Garry oaks in the ground (including the one in today's photograph).

Photography resource link: Today's images to inspire come from the camera of Icelandic photographer Daniel Bergmann (galleries).


I didn't know this oak, but I am wondering about the connection between Quercus garryana and Garrya elliptica (and other Garryaceae).

Is there one?

Am I imagining it, or is there a connection in the pendulous inlforescences?

Quercus garryana - Z5 - RHS Index of Garden Plants, Griffiths
Quercus garryana - Z7-9 - A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, Brickell, Cole, Zuk

David Douglas, intrepid botanist and explorer, named both the oak and the silk-tassel after Nicholas Garry of the Hudson's Bay Company. Beyond that I'd be hard-pressed to find a connection between the two.

Q.garryana is pretty commonly called Garry Oak here in the PNW; I've never heard anyone actually say "Oregon White Oak."

I'm generally following the USDA PLANTS database when it comes to determining US common names. I wonder if Oregon white oak is more prevalent the further south you go in the plant's distribution range.

Hi, Daniel,

I also have almost always heard it referred to as Garry oak all through Washington and Oregon.

Thanks Bruce - how strange. I've changed the entry to reflect these comments.

An Oregon native now living in Washington state, I've always called it "Oregon White Oak." In fact the first time I ever met anyone who called it Garry Oak was when I was working on an outdoor interpretive sign project for the Nature Conservancy. The botanist they hired for research insisted on calling it Garry Oak, even though the plans called for Oregon White Oak to be used. His reasoning was that because the oak occurs from California to BC, Garry Oak would be a better, less exclusive term. However, after a review and discussion by all involved with the project, it was decided to keep "Oregon White Oak" because we felt it was the name most residents (in this case, of southern Oregon) would recognize. Sorry to muddy the waters.

A few years back a brief but pithy note by Darren Borgias regarding the common name for Quercus garryana was published in Botanica Electronic News (BEN):

I completely agree with Darren's argument that "Oregon White Oak" is the most appropriate common name for Quercus garryana.

Additionally, I would suggest that the term "Oregon White Oak Ecosystem" be used instead of "Garry Oak Ecosystem". Where they occur in SW British Columbia, these ecosystems truly represent a little bit of Oregon that has migrated another 200 to 300 miles northward.

There is a parallel here with the term "Carolinian Forest" as it is used in eastern Canada to describe forests that represent a bit of the Carolinas in Canada.

In the truest sense, a common name is a name that is recognized and used by people to distinguish it from other things. It may be local and it may be standardized by some kind of authority, but it is never more than a generally agreed upon name. Nobody is under any obligation to use it. If the people on Hornby Island all called Quercus garryana by another name, say, black oak, it would be confusing to many, but not incorrect. If we talked about the Oregon white oak ecosystem (note the caps: only Oregon is a proper noun), people here and evidently in Washington, too, (perhaps even in California) wouldn't know that we weren't referring to a particular geography. It seems to me that outside of Oregon, Garry oak is a considerably less ambiguous moniker. With respect to everyone who disagrees on this point, if one is looking for accurate scientific information content in names, a scientific binomial is where you'll find it. Common names, which have their own rich history, often mean other things to people. A student of mine once gave Chasmanthium latifolium (northern sea oats) the name "fish-on-a-stick." I've used it ever since.

I certainly concur with the sage words of Douglas Justice regarding the common name(s) of Quercus garryana. Certainly from a historical prospective the name Garry Oak has logic on its side. Also, the fact that it is not exclusively distributed within the confines of Oregon State does not justify in my mind, the exclusive use of 'Oregon' within the common name. However, my favored choice, is mine alone, and others will quite rightly differ. This freedom of choice has often led to a plethora of common names which are often rich in folklore.

I grew up in the southern end of the Willamette Valley and always knew these trees as oak or white oak. I don't remember anyone calling them anything else. When I moved to Washington (Oak Harbor, which has a large population of them) I found that everyone called them Garry oaks.

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