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Editor's Picks

A documentary inspired by a painting of an oak in Israel.
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Roderick Cameron | Oct 09, 2020
One of the world's leading oak collections is located in...
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Plant Focus

A guest post by Matt Candeias, host of the In Defense of Plants podcast and blog

A Day Seized in Belize

En route from Montevideo to New York, I made a two-night stopover in Belize. It allowed me a day of driving through a natural reserve and I was able to spot about half of the 11 oaks reported to grow in Belize. I arrived on a Friday late afternoon in Belize City and drove through dusk and dark to San Ignacio, which would be my base and lies within easy striking distance of Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. As I drove through the Reserve the next morning, the first oaks I saw—and would keep seeing through the day—were Quercus oleoides, a Section Virentes relative of live oak (Q. virginiana). Acorns were newly formed and last year's dried up crop was lying below some trees (perhaps suggesting absence of predators?) New growth was tan-colored and attractive, sometimes coloring the whole canopy. The bark is dark and sometimes very rugged. The local name in Spanish is encino negro (black oak). The accompanying Red Oak I found with it was Q. sapotifolia. Further on I started seeing an oak that reminded me of Quercus insignis' leaf shape and wine-red new growth. It was later identified as Quercus segoviensis. Other oaks seen included Q. elliptica, some with striking new growth featuring blood-red leaves and pale yellow twigs, and the endangered Q. purulhana. For all species aside from Q. oleoides, it was too late for acorns. The next day, on the way back to the airport, now in daylight, I found Q. oleoides all the way back to the coast, and in the lowlands the acorns were more mature but still green. Photos follow.

Quercus oleoides new growth
New growth on Quercus oleoides
Quercus oleoides acorn
Quercus oleoides
Q oleoides bark
Rugged bark on Quercus oleoides
Q oleoides catkin
Quercus oleoides catkin, surprisingly erect—I had understood a characteristic of Quercus was that catkins always drooped . . .
Q oleoides
Quercus oleoides covered in new growth
Q sapotifolia
Quercus sapotifolia in flower
Q sapotifolia growth
New growth of Quercus sapotifolia sprouting from a stump
Q segoviensis
Quercus segoviensis
Quercus segoviensis
Quercus segoviensis
Q segoviensis
New growth on Quercus segoviensis
Q segoviensis
Quercus segoviensis acorn and long-stalked cupule
Q. purulhana
Quercus purulhana
Q elliptica
Quercus elliptica
Q elliptica
New growth on Quercus elliptica
Q elliptica
Quercus elliptica
Q eoleoides
Quercus oleoides (left) by the Western Highway at Hattieville, about 25 km east of Belize City
Q oleoides acorns
Acorns on the Quercus oleoides at Hattieville. You can see how this species earned its epithet, which means "resembling Olea (olive tree)"

I am indebted to Fernando Tobar for identifying the oaks in these photos.

Photos © Roderick Cameron