Native Oaks Are Special

Native oaks help others shine

California native oaks are important. So many species of butterflies, birds, and insects rely on them that they are referred to as “ecological hub species.” If you can, plant an oak in your yard!


Oak leaves are a valuable food source for over 100 species of butterfly and moth caterpillars in California. Beautiful species that may visit your yard if you plant an oak include swallowtails, hairstreaks, viceroys, sphinx moths, and many more.


Hundreds of bird species nest, hatch, and feed in oaks. Some you might see locally include finches, mockingbirds, sparrows, warblers, oak titmice, scrub jays, bluebirds, hummingbirds, and hawks. Caterpillars are the most important food source for many species of baby birds, so the caterpillars that thrive on oak leaves also support our local bird populations.


Thousands of different tiny insect species live in or are associated with oaks, and that is a very good thing! Most of them are beneficial to the ecosystem, and many are food for native songbirds and hummingbirds.

Our Favorite Oaks for Local Landscapes:

Coast live oak

This is the most adaptable and fastest-growing native oak for our local landscapes.

Engelmann oak

A beautiful bluish-leaved and rarer alternative to coast live oak, Englemann oak also thrives in inland Southern California but has lost much of its already restricted natural habitat. Engelmann oak has the potential to become extremely large after many, many years but usually stays narrower than coast live oak for multiple decades, so it can sometimes be used in tighter spaces. It also grows more slowly than cost live oak.

Scrub oak

If you don’t have room for a large oak tree in your yard, oaks come as shrubs too, providing much of the same habitat value in a smaller package! While scrub oak can become a large shrub over many years, it’s also easy to prune to keep at almost any size.

Visit our Demonstration Garden to see mature specimens of all these oak species. For inspiration on how to plan a garden that will grow in to become a native oak woodland, visit our Woodland Garden design template on our Waterwise Garden Planner website.

Waterwise Garden Planner

Design Your Own Waterwise Garden

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