It’s the way that folks at the Bisbee farmers Market say, “Oh, you grow the bellota.” that makes me think of that common name as an honorific name for Quercus emoryi. It is spoken with such respect and awe by people that grew up along the border of Arizona and Sonora. And with a little prodding I can get a story or two of family outings in the summer to gather the acorns…las bellotas. Isn’t it marvelous that Emory oak acorns are still gathered by local and indigenous people? It is.
There are over 500 species of oaks found around the earth in the north temperate zone. In North America we have 80 species and if we head down south there are another 160 species waiting for us. Here in Arizona we have at least 13 species. Arizona Flora lists 12, but a few years ago the Sonoran oak Quercus viminea was found growing in the Patagonia Mountains. This is a good example of why we need a wall! What other cool Sonoran native is lurking and waiting to come to Arizona?! Anyway, our native oaks grow in the uplands along the border and make a nice addition to an upland landscape. They are so full of life. However they would not be very happy planted in the low desert. It is ironic that non native oak species are planted in the urban landscapes of our low desert cities. Does it make me grumpy that southern live oaks (Quercus virginiana) line some of the streets of downtown Tucson? Very.
A couple notes: the photos are mine of a favorite Emory oak near our home and some leaves and acorns too. And I recommend the book Bringing Nature Home by Douglas Tallamy. It is focused on the eastern US, but it doesn’t take much to apply Tallamy’s writing to our southwest region. We’re all in this together. Go native!