Habit: a slow-growing evergreen shrub with a stiff, intricate branching pattern. Leather oak grows up to 10 feet tall, forming naturally sculpted mounds. Its leaves are elliptical and curled in, and grow about 1 inch long; margins are either entire or toothed. Leaf color is grayish green and both surfaces of the blades are covered in fine white hairs, which gives the foliage a dusty appearance. Its inconspicuous cream flowers bloom in the spring, and later produce multiple brown, round, half-inch long acorns.
Ecology: Quercus durata is found on ridges and dry slopes of dense chaparral and woodlands, usually in poor, serpentine soils, up to 6’000 feet of elevation. It is a California endemic species, occurring in the Klamath and Coastal Ranges, foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains and south to Santa Barbara and Riverside County.
Growing conditions: enjoys sunny locations and well-drained, rocky to clay-rich soils. It is very adaptable, tolerant of drought and poor soils, making it easy to care for in the home garden. It is nearly pest and disease free and lives for many years.
Leather oak is valuable to a variety of wildlife. Insects, birds and several butterfly species use it as a host plant, including the California Sister, Gold-Hunter’s Hairstreak and the Sleepy Duskywing.