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Tanoak is commonly known as Tan Bark Oak or Tanbark Oak, and Myrtlewood. It is a common tree in California and the greater North America. Its natural habitat is along the Pacific Coast from as high north as Oregon to as far east as the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The tree is part of the Oak family. The tree or shrub is considered an evergreen.

Tanoak Habitat and Environment

Tanoak thrives on fertile mountain slopes below 1200 meters in coastal ranges from the Santa Inez Mountains in Southern California, to the Cascade Ranges in Southwestern Oregon. The habitat of the tree is in coastal redwood forests, among Douglas fir forest, and mixed evergreen forests. The shrub form of tanoaks is common in chaparral communities. The tree is well-adapted to cool and windy coastal areas where soil is deep and fertile. Shallower soils tend to inhibit the growth of the tree.

Tan Bark Oak Size

The tree can reach up to over 120 feet in height and up to 75 inches (about a meter) in diameter. This plant is very interesting in that its environment plays a large role in the ultimate size of the plant. Forested areas tend to have the taller tanoaks and open areas tend to have more of the shrub-like tanoaks. However, when these plants grow in very dense forest where there is very little sunlight, they can have a shrub-like form with multiple stems.

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Tanoak Acorns

The tree grows acorns which are a very popular food for squirrels and some birds. Historically, acorns were the most important staple plant food for Native American groups like the Ohlone Indians who lived throughout the coastal ranges of California. A single tanoak tree can produce as much as 200 pounds of acorns per year. Tanbark acorns were also used for medicinal purposes such as treating coughs.

Tanoak Leaves

The leaves of the Tanoak shrubs or trees tend to feel thick and leathery to the touch. They have an oblong shape and the ends of the leaves end in a sharp point. The Tanoak leaves have large parallel and evenly spaced veins. Young leaves have tiny red-brown hairs and as the leaves mature the tiny hairs turn white in color. Since the tree is an evergreen, the leaves don't fall off at some point of the year. Instead, the leaves have a life span of about 3-4 years.

More About Tan Bark Oak

As mentioned earlier, the native Ohlone people used to eat the acorns from the trees. They also used parts of the trees for their medicinal effects. The trees are also susceptible to something called the "Sudden oak death syndrome." This problem is caused by the Phytophthora fungus and is spread by beetles and contact with other objects in the environment, which are often human-made. There are a number of ways to keep the trees healthy. If you are hiking in parks or preserves, try not to interfere with the trees by trying to pick the acorns. The tree habitats may be under preservation.

Tanoak in Northern California

The tree is pretty common throughout Northern California and can be seen at just about any park or preserve in the area. Some of the parks where you can see this tree are

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