Photograph courtesy of the Nature Conservancy website
Chris Hise, Director of the Four Canyons Preserve will be taking us for a tour of the back roads and fascinating and unusual spots in the preserve, a rugged and rural spot in north western Oklahoma. On the edge of the preserve are shinnery oak. I find these particularly interesting as they spread underground from rhizomes and are rarely any taller than four feet turning into beautfiul thickets of red vegetation in the fall.
Quercus havardii (common names include shinnery oak, shin oak and Havard oak) is a deciduous, low-growing, thicket-forming shrub that occupies some 2 to 3 million ha in the southern Great Plains of North America. Clones may reach hundreds to thousands of years old, although aboveground stems typically live only 11 to 15 years. Shinnery oak stems are usually 1-2 m tall and codominate the plant community with mid- and tall-grasses which are usually taller than the oaks.
Form: A low shrub to 2 m or occasionally a small tree, Q. havardii forms large clonal thickets by extending rhizomes through the sandy soil where it is usually found. Rhizomes range from 3-15 cm in diameter and are concentrated in upper 60 cm of soil, although penetration depths of 9 m has been reported. Lateral roots and woody rhizomes are widespread near the soil surface. Ninety percent or more of shinnery oak's biomass is under ground, and fortuitous root grafting is common. These underground stems commonly spread to form plants 3 to 15 m or more in diameter. Single clones are reported to cover up to 81 ha and to achieve ages over 13,000 years.