Tan Bark or Chestnut Oak TreeThe Tan-bark or Chestnut Oak of California (Pasania densiflora, Orst.), formerly included in the genus Quercus, is now set apart as our sole representative of an Asiatic genus of trees that stand half way between oaks and chestnuts. It is a handsome oak, decked the year round in evergreen foliage, similar in form to the chestnut. The leaves are coated, when young, with yellow pubescence, which lights up the tree as if with golden blossoms.
In the summer the crown of the tree shines again with gold. The profuse staminate spikes stand erect with greenish pistillate flowers at their bases. The latter are scaly, but the nut finally rises out of a densely fringed cup, declaring itself an acorn, which takes two years to mature.
The wood of the tan-bark oak is used for fuel, but has little lumber value. Its bark, however, is more valuable to the tanner than any other. So the tree is threatened with extinction by the irresponsible bark peelers, and by forest fires carelessly set.
This tree grows along dry hillsides and in mountain ravines in California and Oregon, keeping along the coast range, and flourishing especially among the redwoods. Government protection of the latter would save from utter annihilation another remnant of former times, for the tan-bark oak is scarcely less interesting to the botanist than the redwood itself.