The Trees of Los Altos Hills
I was recently asked to provide a photo of a tree (or trees) in Los Altos Hills that might be suitable for use on the cover of a magazine. This caused me to go back through my archives and select a number of candidate images. Having gone to the trouble of retrieving them, I decided it might be worthwhile to display them on a page together.

And here they are...



This magnificent Oak is on private property off Old Page Mill Road - the land it stands on is protected from ever being developed by a voluntary Conservation Easement set up by a previous owner of the property.

This image has since been used on the cover of a book describing the process and benefits of creating such easements.

The big widely-branched deciduous tree you see in the center here is the the "Valley Oak" (Quercus lobata).Wikipedia tells us that it is the largest of North American oaks, and is endemic to California, growing in the hot interior valleys and foothills. Mature specimens may attain an age of up to 600 years.

The tree on the right is evergreen and typically smaller and denser. It is the "Coast Live Oak" (Quercus agrifolia), It is native to California, growing west of the Sierra Nevada all the way from Northern California down to the northern part of Baja California in Mexico. It is classified as a member of the "red oak" family.



Two Oaks bathed in the evening light just before the sun sinks below the horizon. This pair of Oaks sit at the summit of the hill that crowns Byrne Preserve next to Westwind Barn - probably one of the best known scenic views in the town.



Spring has sprung, and the wild flowers are expoding to form a carpet under this Oak where the first green shoots are just beginning to bud from the branches.

This tree is by the side of Arastradero Road, which forms the border of the Town of Los Altos Hills. Again we have a Valley Oak dominating the scene with a smaller evergreen Coast Live Oak next to it



The same tree as shown in the previous image, but seen from a different view point.



The same two Oaks as shown in the second image of this album, but now in summer with leaves on the branches and the grass has turned yellow.



This image as well as the next four images, all show a buckeye in bloom - also known as "horse chestnut". Some varieties, in other parts of the world, are also called white chestnut or red chestnut and in Britain, they are sometimes called conker trees because of their link with the game of conkers,

In and around Los Altos Hills, this tree is remarkable for being the first to have its leaves turn brown and fall off in the middle of summer, and also for new greenery to appear in the middle of winter - shoots can appear before the end of January. The abundant white flowers appear around the end of April.

Just underneath the Buckeye tree to the left of the trunk, is a rock with a plaque on it. The plaque is in memory of Mary Davey who was instrumental in causing the town to be able to acquire this land and have it preserved as public open space in perpetuity.



Showing the Buckeye in bloom as well as the iconic twin Oaks at the summit of the hill.





In this image, again you can see the rock with the memorial plaque under the Buckeye tree.





This is a classic scene in the rural parts of this section of California - a "Valley Oak" on the side of a hill under a clear blue sky, where the green grass has turned to yellow as summer progresses, but where the yellow mustard in the foreground is still in color.

Unbeknownst to me, in the gulley to the right in amongst the bushes, a Coyote mother had set up her den with pups. Soon after taking this picture, I spotted her under the tree keeping a watchfull eye on me - to make sure I wasn't getting too close and becoming a danger to her pups.



Byrne Preserve seen in one particular light.



Almost the same view as the previous image, but shown in a different light. The different lighting at different times of day and over the varyting seasons provides an almost infinite variation of color tones and moods.



Both this image and the next one were taken from "the other side" of the twin Oaks at the summit of the hill in Byrne Preserve (mentioned in Image #2 above).

In the distance is Westwind Barn.





Usualy Oaks tend to grow either singly or in a small grouping - but very unusualy a number will grow in a dense grove - providing a heavily shaded interior where moss grows on the linbs.



The same scene as the previous image - but now in black and white.



It's not too hard to imagine that Indians camped unde this very tree 150 years ago...



A typical California hillside tableau - a mixture of Oaks and Buckeye trees (the latter with no leaves yet - winter time) and a family of deer being wary of the photographer (and possible coyote in the undergrowth)



A Valley Oak with no leaves in winter, but draped in Spanish Moss - usualy associated with more humid climates. Such Oaks tend not to grow as large because the "moss" shades their leaves and slows growth.



A closer view of Spanish Moss on an Oak. This "moss" is neither a moss or a lichen, but an epiphytic plant which obtains its nutrients and water from the air and rainfall.



On the right a deciduous Valley Oak, on the left some large specimens of Live Oaks line the road



The evergreen Live Oaks tend not to be as tall as some of the bigger Oaks, but sometimes special circumstances give rise to the exception.

Here a Coast Live Oak is growing on the banks of a creek with its feet practically in the water. This creek is dry for part of the year, but underneath it lies an aquifer - or at least the level of groundwater is high here. As a result the tree has plenty of water and nutrients to be able to grow tall and compete with trees higher up the bank for sunlight.



The trees of Los Altos Hills. We see them everyday - so we don't actually "see" them anymore.