Conserving the White Oak Tree

I grew up in the middle of an Oregon White Oak grove, perched on about a 900' elevation foothill of the coast range. A large tree with an enormous horizontally extending branch was perfect for hanging a rope swing for my little sister. Acorns attracted squirrels, woodpeckers and flickers seemed to particularly like exploring beneath the ribbed bark, and "puff balls" fell to the ground and exploded with powdery dust when stomped on. Boys stomp things.

We lived south of Forest Grove, Oregon, which I was taught as a boy was named for a Native American gathering place located where the fir forest met the oak grove – not to be confused with Oak Grove, Oregon, which likely had similar etymology. I had no idea my yard was part of an important, fast-disappearing habitat. According to the Ecological Landscape Alliance, up to 99% of the pre Euro-American settlement oak prairies and groves have been lost. It seems that just about every domestic and commercial human activity you can think of harms oak groves.

Recently there have been more efforts to revive Oregon's oaks. Columbia Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, and others are preserving and encouraging white oak habitat in western Oregon and SW Washington through land acquisitions and conservation easements. (That's lawyer stuff!) The Ecological Landscape Alliance encourages us to plant even one Oregon White Oak in our own urban yards. Maybe I'll try it. I have plenty of squirrels and I don't really want to encourage woodpeckers, but it would be fun to attract a nuthatch, and maybe someday a young boy can stomp and send up a cloud of puff ball dust.

Posted in
Filed under