Oaktopia

Tree Blog

Red Butte Gardens, University of Utah

The University of Utah was the home of a well-known horitculturist, Dr. Walter Cottam. Dr. Cottam’s most famous work concerned oak hybridization, which was based on a chance discovery of a natural hybrid of Gambel Oak with the Rocky Mountain Live Oak, Quercus turbinella. The sculpture shown above shows an array of leaves from this hybrid, which is known as Quercus x undulata. This hybrid is often referred to as a hybrid complex, because of the dizzying array of hybrid forms which have been discovered throughout the Rocky Mountains. Alternatively, it can be argued that any oak hybrid is automatically part of a complex - or a swarm as they are sometimes known. Given the essentially infinite nature of expression of any hybrid oak, hybrids between any two species actually represent a huge range, but, because of their rarity(or lack of recognition, hybrids are often imagined as much more homogenous than is actually the case.

Dave Muffly