Foliage Friday: Pointy Acorns of the Quercus agrifolia

I see pointy acorns dropping on the ground all over Palo Alto.

They must come from oak trees, but these oak trees aren’t ones I’m familiar with.

The leaves are small and shaped like holly leaves with sharp spines.

What is it?

It’s a Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia). It’s in the oak genus (Quercus), but unlike the oaks that I know that drop their leaves in the fall, this Quercus is evergreen. How queer? It’s native to California, and as the name suggests, lives in coastal environments: mild winters and summer heat tempered by the ocean breezes.

The Coast Live Oak is a common sighting on the Stanford campus. In reading about Coast Live Oaks, I came across the Stanford “Tree Transplant Program” (proper title mine). For the past few decades, when large trees are in the way of a new construction project, rather than chopping the trees down, Stanford tries to transplant the trees to other parts of the campus. It seems like quite a massive undertaking. A Coast Live Oak that weighed 550,000 lbs (275 tons) was transplanted to make way for the new hospital. Isn’t that crazy?! Not all the trees survive, but some do.

Before moving to California, I assumed all oak trees looked pretty much like the giant one in the backyard of my dad’s home

I *think* the oak tree in my dad’s backyard is a Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra). It’s massive. This is a relatively common tree in Portland, OR, and according to, “Old trees become huge in all aspects.”

“Huge in all aspects” pretty accurately describes this tree. These photos don’t do it justice.