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Plant Focus

Quercus texana New Madrid acorn
Disentangling the cultivar published as Quercus texana ‘New Madrid’.

2018 Pre-Conference Tour #1: Sierra Nevada

Forty-one participants from nine countries gathered at Davis, California on October 15 for a four-day trek across the Sierra Nevada and back. Stunning was the diversity of landscapes we saw.

Quercus lobata in a remnant Central Valley riparian grassland, Cosumnes River Preserve © Harry Baldwin

On Day 1, we crossed the Central Valley of California, ultimately reaching the outskirts of Yosemite National Park. Along the way, we stopped three times. The first was Cosumnes River Preserve not far from Sacramento—a remnant of riparian woodland and grassland with really big Quercus lobata of spreading habit. The second was the San Joaquin Experimental Range, which hosts a rare patch of Q. douglasii savannah in public hands (US Forest Service) and is the location of important studies on the failure of Q. douglasii regeneration. Quercus wislizeni were intermixed with the Q. douglasii in the rockier terrain closer to watercourses. The staff welcomed acorn collection! Third was the Lewis Creek Trail in the Sierra National Forest, an exciting short, steep trail to a stream allowing contact with Q. chrysolepis and Q. kelloggii.

Admiring the Quercus douglasii at San Joaquin Experimental Range © Bryan Denig

Day 2 led us first to the Mariposa Grove of Sequoiadendron giganteum and then to an overlook of the Yosemite Valley and El Capitan. Then at the bottom of the valley we had options for strolling among the Q. kelloggii in the valley meadows or hiking to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls. We climbed out of the valley westward, past scenes of both moderately and incredibly destructive fires of the summer months, and then turned east again to cross the Sierra crest at Tioga Pass, stopping at Olmsted Point to see Q. vacciniifolia growing out of almost sheer granite amongst large, fetching Juniperus grandis.

The famous Grizzly Giant Sequoiadendron giganteum, Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park © Harry Baldwin

Day 3 was on the back side of the Sierras with three stops in remote and difficult environments. At the Gray’s Meadow Campground on the road west of Independence, we saw a narrow riparian community marked by Q. kelloggii and surrounded by near-desert, and then we pushed up to 9,200 feet to see red fir (Abies magnifica) and foxtail pine (Pinus balfouriana) at Onion Valley Campground, along with the very striking local Fagaceae representative, Chrysolepis sempervirens. Thence back east again, across Owens Valley, to the crest of the White Mountains Range and the Shulman Grove of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest (P. longaeva) at over 10,000 feet. On the descent we stopped to admire the cross-valley views to the Sierras and the “forest” of single-leaf pinyon pine, P. monophylla.

View above Onion Valley Campground, eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, with Salix, Populus, Abies magnifica, A. concolor, Pinus balfouriana, P. flexilis © Harry Baldwin

After a night at Mammoth Lakes, the group explored the Tuolumne Meadows back in Yosemite and then descended our way back to Davis, stopping first at the “Rim of the World” vista point on Highway 120 near Groveland, with an expansive view over heavily damaged landscapes left by at least four giant fires since 1949, and later to admire gray pines (P. sabiniana), Q. douglasii, and Q. wislizeni along the hilly banks of Don Pedro Lake.

Climbing among the bristlecone pines, Pinus longaeva, Shulman Grove © Dirk Giseburt

Rich and amazing! The warmest thanks go to our excellent tour planners and guides, Abbey Hart of the UC Davis Arboretum and Stew Winchester of Merritt College.

A detailed Tour report will be published in the 2019 issue of International Oaks (Proceedings of the 9th International Oak Society Conference). You can view more photographs of this Tour in a photo gallery here.