Herb: Californian White Oak

Latin name: Quercus lobata

Synonyms: Quercus hindsii

Family: Fagaceae (Beech Family)

Medicinal use of Californian White Oak:

Any galls produced on the tree are strongly astringent and can be used in the treatment of haemorrhages, chronic diarrhoea, dysentery etc. A poultice of the ground galls and salt has been used as a treatment for burns, sores and cuts. A decoction of the bark has been used as a cough medicine and a treatment for diarrhoea. The pulverized bark has been used as a dusting powder to dry up running sores, it is particularly useful for babies with sore umbilicus.

Description of the plant:


30 m
(98 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Fertile lowlands in deep rich soils in the valleys of W. California between the Sierra Nevada and the coast.

Edible parts of Californian White Oak:

Seed - cooked. A staple food for several native North American Indian tribes. Quite large, it is up to 5cm long and 15mm wide. The seed of this species is sweet and low in tannin and needs little if any leeching. Any bitter tannins can be leached out by thoroughly washing the dried and ground up seed in water, though many minerals will also be lost. A simple taste test can tell when the tannin has been leached. The traditional method of preparing the seed was to bury it in boggy ground overwinter. The germinating seed was dug up in the spring when it would have lost most of its astringency. The seed can be roasted and then eaten, its taste is something like a cross between sunflower seeds and popcorn. The seed can also be ground into a powder and used in making bread etc. Roasted seed is a coffee substitute.

Other uses of the herb:

A mulch of the leaves repels slugs, grubs etc, though fresh leaves should not be used as these can inhibit plant growth. Oak galls are excrescences that are sometimes produced in great numbers on the tree and are caused by the activity of the larvae of different insects. The insects live inside these galls, obtaining their nutrient therein. When the insect pupates and leaves, the gall can be used as a rich source of tannin, that can also be used as a dyestuff. The acorn meal has been used to mend cracks in clay pots. Wood - hard and fine grained but brittle and weak. Of no commercial value, it is used only for fuel.

Propagation of Californian White Oak:

Seed - it quickly loses viability if it is allowed to dry out. It can be stored moist and cool overwinter but is best sown as soon as it is ripe in an outdoor seed bed, though it must be protected from mice, squirrels etc. Small quantities of seed can be sown in deep pots in a cold frame. Plants produce a deep taproot and need to be planted out into their permanent positions as soon as possible, in fact seed sown in situ will produce the best trees. Trees should not be left in a nursery bed for more than 2 growing seasons without being moved or they will transplant very badly.

Cultivation of the herb:

Fertile lowlands in deep rich soils in the valleys of W. California between the Sierra Nevada and the coast.

Known hazards of Quercus lobata:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.