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A deciduous tree often 60 to 80 ft high, with a broad compact head of tortuous branches; buds 3⁄8 in. long and, like the young shoots, densely clothed with reddish-brown down. Leaves obovate in main outline but with two or three deep, rounded or blunt lobes at each side, the base usually wedge-shaped, 2 to 5 in. long, not so wide, dark shining green and glabrous above, more or less downy and conspicuously veined beneath; stalk downy, 1⁄2 to 1 in. long. Fruits stalkless, usually solitary; acorns oval or obovoid, about 1 in. long, the base enclosed in a shallow, downy cup.
Native of western N. America, from British Columbia to N. California. This tree bears considerable resemblance to our native oak in shape of leaf and acorn, but is very distinct in the hairy shoots and large downy winter-buds. It has many times been introduced to this country, but I have never seen other than quite small trees, and it is evidently not well adapted to our climate. Douglas named it after his friend, Nicholas Garry of the Hudson’s Bay Company, who greatly assisted him in his early journeys.
There is a specimen in the Edinburgh Botanic Garden, pl. 1924, measuring 26 × 3 ft.
This species was described by Bean (B476) and Krüssmann (K87). A key to its varieties, modified from that of Nixon (1997), is presented below.
Tree to 15 m, stem usually solitary; buds yellowish or cream, 0.6–1.2 cm long and densely pubescent; branchlets covered in spreading hairs; Canada (British Columbia), USA (California, Oregon, Washington)
Shrub or small tree to 5 m, multistemmed and spreading clonally; buds reddish brown, 0.2–0.5 cm long, sparsely pubescent; branchlets largely glabrous
Leaf underside with sparse or dense stellate hairs with four to six rays; USA (California & Oregon: Siskiyou Mts.)
Leaf underside with sparse or dense stellate hairs with six to eight rays; USA (California: Sierra Nevada, Tehachapi Mts.; Oregon)
Q. garryana var. breweri (Engelm.) Jepson
Both var. fruticosa and var. semota occur at higher altitudes (1250–1900 m asl) than typical var. garryana (0–800 m asl). For this reason they tend to form small, multistemmed trees and shrubs, rather than larger trees. In var. fruticosa the stellate hairs on the leaf underside have four to six rays. Var. fruticosa (commonly known under the name var. breweri) is endemic to the Siskiyou region on the California–Oregon border. Nixon 1997. Distribution USA: California, Oregon. Habitat Montane conifer forest and chaparral between 1400 and 1900 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 6. Conservation status Least Concern. Illustration Nixon 1997.
Var. semota occurs along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and the north slope of the Tehachapi Mts. The stellate hairs on the leaf underside have six to eight rays. Nixon 1997. Distribution USA: California, Oregon. Habitat Montane conifer forest and chaparral between 1250 and 1800 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 6. Conservation status Least Concern. Illustration Nixon 1997.
Both of these miniatures are in cultivation at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens and have successfully retained their dwarf habit, var. fruticosa being 1.5 m after at least 30 years, and var. semota a flat-topped bush at 2.1 m after 25 years. They could be commended as small, characterful, gnarled-looking oaks for an ambitious rock garden.