There are 13 species of oaks found in Arizona and they range from 3,000 to 8,000 feet in elevation across the state. The only one I haven’t seen in habitat is the Mexican willow oak (Quercus viminea) found in its northern most range in the Patagonia Mountains. That is still a quest for me.
I think most of our native oaks wouldn’t be very happy in the low desert. If you wanted a native oak in the Sonoran Desert, I’m thinking scrub oak (Quercus turbinella) would work. Yeah, I’m pretty sure it would. It’s a shrubby oak, but can be trained up to a nifty little tree. There are oaks planted throughout the low desert landscapes of southern Arizona, but for the most part they are the non-natives like southern live oak (Quercus virginiana), Texas red oak (Quercus buckleyi) or cork oak (Quercus suber). I doubt that non-native oaks will attract as many interesting native species of insects as a native. They didn’t evolve together here. We could check back in 10,000 years or so to see if that has changed. Let me know.
If you live in the low desert, well, good news, cause our native oaks are found not too far away and a hike into the high desert or up into the sky islands to see and celebrate these trees of life is in order.
The book I refer to and quote from is Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy. He has a new book out called Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard. Collect the set! The photographs are of an Emory oak (Quercus emoryi) and some acorns on an Emory. Is that Ms. Mesquitey under that oak?!