Fall Splendor – and a Mystery!

Fall colors at Six Sigma Ranch

Fall is a great time to study oak trees – and there is a lot to discover at Six Sigma Ranch. Leaves are turning yellow on the blue oaks by our front gate and on the majestic valley oaks in Asbill Valley a little deeper into the Ranch. All summer, the rare black oaks have been hiding their green leaves among the other trees on the hillsides but, for a short while in the fall, they will stand out with their bright orange and red colors, and you suddenly can’t miss them.

Fall colors at Six Sigma Ranch

Some oak trees, the live oaks, do not take part in the fall color show, but keep their dark green colors all year round.
Oracle oak at Six Sigma RanchThis is all pretty basic, we used to think: Deciduous trees turn colors and shed their leaves in the fall, while evergreens stay, well… always green.
Then, a couple of years ago, we stumbled upon a few trees with a behavior somewhere in between the two: Their leaves turned into a yellowish green in the fall, but after that, they stayed on the trees most of the winter instead of falling off… It took some help from an expert to figure out the mystery!

The Solution

oak-hybridKerry Heise of UC Davis helped us figure out what is going on.

The tree, oracle oak, is actually exactly what it seems to be, Kerry explained – a hybrid between deciduous black oak and an evergreen specie, interior live oak.

When you look at the leaves, it seems intuitively very probable that the one in the middle represents a hybrid between the black oak on the left and the interior live oak on the right.

With Kerry’s help, we have now identified eight different species of oak on the ranch. That’s pretty exciting for nature lovers who grew up in Denmark where all oak trees look the same!

Else Ahlmann

7 thoughts on “Fall Splendor – and a Mystery!

Janet Maddock October 19, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Love the photos. Thanks for the walk with nature. JM.


    Christian Ahlmann October 19, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    Thank you Jan. And great to see you here last weekend! Christian


Dan Aguilar October 22, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Great post! As a native Northern Californian, nothing represents my homeland better than the variety of oaks we enjoy (maybe tie-dyed shirts come in second.) Cheers!


    Else Ahlmann October 23, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    Thank you, Dan. The variety of oaks is even more exciting for us who didn’t grow up here.


Claire October 22, 2016 at 11:57 pm

Love to learn about all the different oaks here in California.


    Else Ahlmann October 23, 2016 at 12:33 am

    We are working on the 8 different ones we have at the ranch – hope to get something in writing soon.


Bonnie nishop October 24, 2016 at 8:07 pm

Thanks so much..i am a Sawyer n up for a new job w Western eic tree service..i just finished falling all the trees at middletown trail from valley fire..for cahd 2.5 m grant…my new boss would love to come see th variances in the oaks..the job requires me to be able to identify n survey all trees in this region…thanks for update kai..


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