Saturday, October 5, 2013

A New Oak

The vegetation of Cedar Key and nearby areas that were once sand dunes is called "scrub," with scrubby oaks and occasional pines being the most common kinds of trees. Sand live oak and myrtle oak are the two most frequent species, but a third one, Chapman's oak, is said to be commonly present also. For the past few years I've been trying to learn this one, but haven't been able to convince myself that I had seen one.

In the past couple of days it appeared that I might have to lead a nature walk in the Cedar Key Scrub state reserve as part of the Nature Coast Paddling Festival (the nature walk won't be happening, at least not soon). Looking at a species list, Chapman's oak is reported to be present on the property. I decided to look up photos, so I would know one if I encountered it. When I saw the photos, the plants looked very familiar--so familiar, in fact, that I realized one is growing right here in our one-tenth acre lot.
Chapman's Oak (Quercus chapmanii)

Why had this one given me so much trouble? Part of the problem had to do with myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia), and the variations it shows in leaf form.

Myrtle oak leaves on mature branches

Myrtle oak leaves as they often appear on sprouts

I had been thinking that the leaves of what turned out to be Chapman's oak were a third, possibly stressed, form of myrtle oak. Also, this unimposing and apparently obscure tree wasn't recognized as a separate species until A.W. Chapman, M.D. first described it in 1860.  

Now I know the third member of the trio, and have the further satisfaction of having all three kinds of scrub oaks right here in our yard.


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