Gambel’s Oak – 4 Facts About These Common Trees

gambel's oak

A beautiful Gambel’s Oak tree. Photo via Flickr.

Gambel’s Oak seem to be everywhere in the foothills around Salt Lake City.  Here are 4 fun facts about these common Rocky Mountain trees.

I spend a lot of time traveling around the Salt Lake Valley and hiking in the mountains surrounding it.  Whenever I go for a hike in the foothills I see these small Oak trees everywhere.  I soon learned they are Gambel’s Oaks.  The more I learned about them the more I discovered that they have a number of rather neat characteristics, especially how they reproduce.

4 Facts About Gambel’s Oak

gambel's oak

A nice acorn. Photo via Flickr.

These trees, like all oak trees, produce acorns.  Acorns are the seeds of the oak that if conditions are right will grow into new trees.  However, acorns can also be an excellent source of food for animals and people.  The Native Americans would eat the acorns of Gambel’s Oak trees after roasting or boiling them.

This is a common tree found in the Southern Rockies, mostly in the foothills or lower elevations.  It grows between 5,000 and 9,000 feet in elevation and thrives in hot, dry environments.

gambel's oak

Photo via Flickr.

This is a tree, but it doe not grow as tall as many other trees.  In fact, most commonly this tree grows between 10 and 30 feet tall.  However, it can grow quite a bit taller.  Since it commonly grows so short this ‘tree’ is sometimes called a large shrub.

As I said, this trees reproduces with its acorns.  But, one of the coolest facts about this tree is that it more commonly reproduces and spread by one other way.  A Gambel’s Oak most often reproduces by growing new trees from root sprouts.  This is similar to how an Aspen tree can grow new trees by sending out runners underground.  These are roots that go sideways rather than downwards.  The new trees sprout from these runners.  This is why you will often see a cluster of Gambel’s Oaks growing close together on a hillside.