Index, Gambel Oak and Related Species:
Hidden Hollow: Gambel Oak
(Keystone Species)
    1. Gambel Oak
    2. Acorns
    3. Insects
    4. Chokecherry
    5. Robins
    6. Spotted Towhee
    7. Scrub Jay
    8. Black-capped Chickadee
    9. Kestrel Hawk
    10. Golden Currant
    11. Wood Rose
    12. Fragrant Sumac
    13. Oregon Grape
      14. Bibliography


The Gambel Oak:
As you walk down the pathways at Hidden Hollow, one of the many keystone species that you will see is a member of the Beech Family  (Fagacae),  the Gambel Oak  (Quercus gambeli Nutt.), also known as the Utah White Oak.  A thicket forming small tree in Utah, at maturity it averages 12" in diameter and 30 feet high. It is generally much shorter due to repeated burning, hence is called "scrub oak".  It's seeds are produced one to an acorn; about 1/2 to 3/4 inches long with a cup covering nearly 1/2 of the length. 
Oaks are an important plant for watershed protection, wildlife and human food, and shelter. Oak woodlands, as well as Pinyon-Juniper forests, are important winter range areas for deer herds.  Understory plants such as Chokecherries, Golden Currants, Fragrant Sumac, Wood Rose, and Oregon Grape provide additional food and shelter for birds like Robins , Chickadees, Towhees, and Scrubjays. 
See Index:

      Deer and Elk browse on acorns as well as a wide variety of wildlife.  Native Americans considered acorns an important food source and used them both alone and in combination with other foods after first leaching out the bitter tannins.  Acorns were a good source of protein rich flour for cakes and gruel during the winter.
      Some insects such as beetles and moths like to bore holes in acorns to raise their larvae in.  Another important food source for birds are the insects which live out their life cycles in the Oak such as the Fall Canker Worm and Gall FliesSpotted Towhees and Black Capped Chickadees are attracted to the  Gambel Oak for the insects found in the acorns, on the bark of the tree, and under the leaves on the ground.  Scrub Jays love to feast on the fall harvest of acorns; they gather the acorns and hide them in various places in the ground to find them in the winter.  When they forget where the acorns are, the seed has a chance to germinate and grow into a new oak.   In the winter, Kestrels in turn, prey on the other small birds that find food and shelter among the branches of the Gambel Oak See Gambel Oak:  See Index:


Gall Flies
Galls are caused by many different species of Gall Flies (Cynips spongifica) which lay their eggs on the leaves of the Oak.  The galls begin to form after the egg of the Gall Fly hatches.  The larvae secretes a liquid which causes abnormal growth of the plant.  The plant cells most active in growth are directly affected.  Most cynipoid flies make galls upon oak.  A particular part of the plant is always affected by the same species, and each species can be identified by the particular type of gall it produces.  There are approximately 1,500 species of Gall Flies! See Acorns: 
See Index.  See Gambel Oak:
Fall Canker Worm
The Fall Canker Worm (Alsophila pometana Harris), also known as the Inch Worm, deposits eggs in a compact mass fastened to the twigs by a strong gluey secretion.  The inch worms in spring, and the moths in late fall provide food for the Scrub Jays which feast on the insects.  Chicadee's search all winter long for the dormant egg masses.
See Acorns:
See Index:
Rufous -sided Towhees
Rufous-sided Towhees  (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), are very common in the Oak brush community of the Wasatch front.  They are year-round dwellers occupying forest edges, woodlands, and riparian thickets.  They consume grass and other seeds, acorns, berries, and insects.  It's nest is usually a cup of plant fibers and shreds of bark placed on the ground or in low bushes. The birds are 7-8 1/2 inches with reddish brown sides, white belly, eye red, feet brown, and white spots on wings and the tips of the tail. See Acorns: See Kestrel Hawk:  See Index:
Black Capped Chickadee
The Black Capped Chickadee of the Family: Paridae, (Parus atricapillus L.), are permanent residents throughout Utah.  In winter they inhabit woodlands along the streams of the valleys.  They favor edge habitats.  Chickadees are quick and secretive forming established pairs.  Roosting chickadees can enter a state of regulated hypothermia, lowering their body temperature to 10-12 degrees Celsius below the daytime norm of 42 degrees Celsius to conserve energy.   They feed mainly on insects and spiders, as well as berries and seeds in winter. They forage in trees and bushes, exploring from bark to twigs to find winter dormant insects and their egg masses.  See Acorns:  See Index:
Scrub Jay
The Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens)  breeds and maintains nesting sites in Oak, Pinon, and Juniper trees.  They consume insects, acorns, pinon nuts, fruits, and seeds.  Jays tend to cache food such as acorns, nuts, and seeds in the soil or under loose litter, as well as in elevated niches, in order to ensure a yearly food supply.  They often come to winter bird feeders in peoples back yards.  It likes peanuts when it can't find acorns! See Acorns:  See Index:


The Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa ) is a member of the Rose family: Rosaceae.  It is a small native tree growing in thickets bearing white, drooping  flowers and clusters of smooth, round black fruits.  This tree is often found on hillsides, open woods, along streams and fence rows. 
Chokecherries are an important source of food for many birds, including Robins who gorge themselves on the fruits. 
Native Americans used Chokecherries in pemmican, gruel, and stews.  The settlers used the cherries for making delicious jelly, and syrup.  See Gambel Oak: See Index:



American Robin
The American Robin (Turdus migratorius ) is a common resident of streamside woodlands, mountain forests, and farmlands, cities and towns. They favor berries and buds of native and ornamental shrubs and trees, particularly Chokecherries.  
See Chokecherry:  See Index: 
American Kestrel
The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is a member of the Falcon Family.  It is a distinctive, Robin sized falcon that preys on grasshoppers, mice, and in winter other small birds such as Chickadees, Towhees, Sparrows, and Scrub Jays. 
Although small, these birds are fierce hunters dropping down on their prey upon the ground. These birds live year round throughout the southwest in deserts, grasslands, open woodlands, and in and around cities. 
Kestrels are small with pointed wings, peach colored breast, and red and blue coloring.   
See Index: See Acorn:
Golden Currant
A member of the Gooseberry Family: Golden Currant (Ribes aureum), grows in clumps on stream banks.  It is often found near Chokecherries, Gambel Oaks, and Fragrant Sumac.  The fruit is 1/2 inch long, in clusters, and is edible and sweet when ripe turning any color ranging from yellow, red, and black.  Many songbirds including Robins love the fruit, as well as small animals such as Raccoons and Squirrels. 
See Gambel Oak: See Index:
Wood's Rose

        The Wood Rose (Rosa woodsii) is a member of the family (Rosaceae).  There are more than 35 species of wild rose in this country.  Other members of the Rose Family include strawberries, blackberries, dewberries, raspberries, and common trees such as Apples, Cherries, Plums, and Hawthornes.  Wild roses can be found along roads, fences, streams, and in fields and meadows.  Thorny Rose bushes are sanctuaries for small animals and song birds, providing both food and protection.
        Native Americans consumed the young shoots, fruit, flowers, and leaves; often making a tea from the dried rosehips and leaves.  The hips are very high in vitamin C, and provided protection against scurvy.  The seeds of the hips are also very high in vitamin E, and dried wild rose petals make a wonderful tea.  See Index:  See Gambel Oak:



Fragrant Sumac
Also called Squawbush, the Fragrant Sumac  is a member of the Sumac Family and is commonly found over most of the United States as well as the foothills in Northeastern and Southern Utah.  It loves dry gravelly hillsides where vegetation is scarce.  Birds love to eat the fruits. A related species, Smooth Sumac (Rus glabra) is found in the rocky foothills of the Wasatch.  Both species have dried seeds which can make a sour drink much like lemonade.  In California related sumac bushes are called "Lemonade Berry".  See index: See Gambel Oak:
Oregon Grape
The Oregon Grape (Berberis repens), is a member of the Barberry Family.  It is a low, creeping woody plant that is covered with fragrant yellow flowers in the spring.  It's berries are dark blue and edible, and has stiff, spiny leaves reminiscent of English Holly leaves.  Birds and small animals love to eat the berries. 
See Index:  See Gambel Oak:
Anderson, Berniece, and Holmgren, Arthur H  Mountain Plants of Northeastern Utah.  Logan: Utah State University, 1914.

 Angier, Bradford. Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants.  Harrisburg: Stackpole, 1992.

Harrison, H.H.  American Birds in Color.  New York: Wise and Co., 1948.

 Howard, Dr. Leland O.  The Insect Book.  Norwood: Doubleday, 1901.

Wood, Stephen L., ed.  Great Basin Naturalist Memoirs:  Birds of Utah.  Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1976.

Young, Kay.  Wild Seasons:  Gathering and Cooking Wild Plants of the Great Plains.  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993.
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