Desert Shrub Oak can be found in open woodlands of pinyon, juniper and Joshua trees, on mountain slopes along desert edges, 3,000 feet to 6,500 feet. Leaves are 1.5" long, oblong in outline, yellowish green on both sides. Margins are toothed and spine-tipped, and apex is pointed. Acorns shaped like old-fashioned spinning top. Mature bark gray with dull cast. Shrubs are 10' tall.
Quercus turbinella is a species of oak known by the common names Sonoran scrub oak, shrub live oak, and grey oak. It is native to northwestern Mexico and the southwestern United States from far eastern California to southwest Colorado, Rio Grande New Mexico, to west Texas.
Quercus turbinella is a shrub growing two to five meters in height but sometimes becoming treelike and exceeding six meters. The branches are gray or brown, the twigs often coated in short woolly fibers when young and becoming scaly with age.
The thick, leathery evergreen leaves are up to three centimeters long by two wide and are edged with large, spine-tipped teeth. They are gray-green to yellowish in color and waxy in texture on the upper surfaces, and yellowish and hairy or woolly and glandular on the lower surfaces.
The males catkins are yellowish-green and the female flowers are in short spikes in the leaf axils, appearing at the same time as the new growth of leaves. The fruit is a yellowish brown acorn up to two centimeters long with a shallow warty cup about a centimeter wide. This oak reproduces sexually via its acorns if there is enough moisture present, but more often it reproduces vegetatively by sprouting from its rhizome and root crown.
This oak easily hybridizes with other oak species, including Quercus gambelii and Q. grisea. Many species of animals use it for food, with wild and domesticated ungulates browsing the foliage and many birds and mammals eating the acorns. Animals also use the shrub as cover, and mountain lions hide their kills in the thickets.
Uses: The Hualapai use the acorns to make bread, stew, and mush; they also also eat the acorns roasted. The Gila River Pima eat the acorns raw. The Cocopa gather the acorns for trade with the Paipai for sheep skins. The Havasupai use the wood for hoe and axe handles.
The leaves are valuable browse and emergency winter or drought food for wildflife in southern and central Arizona. Quercus turbinella can survive heavy browsing and may remain as almost the only forage on deteriorated ranges in Arizona. New, succulent growth is most palatable.
Mule deer and desert bighorn sheep browse on Q. turbinella in Arizona, as do cattle, domestic sheep, and domestic goats. The acorns are eaten by cattle, collared peccary, wild turkey, mule deer, numerous rodents, geese, grouse, quail, scrub jays, and many other birds.
The cambium is eaten by sapsuckers, the bark by porcupines, and the twigs by beavers. Quercus turbinella thickets provide cover for wide range of birds and mammals.
Even acorns that taste relatively nice straight out of the shell (such as most members of the white oak group) still contain tannin and eating large quantities could cause troubles (e.g., stomach upset, loss of nutrients due to tannin binding with proteins).
To remove the tannin: (in survival situation)
- 1. Remove nut from the shell.
- 2. Smash the nuts into smaller pieces to make leaching the tannin out faster.
- 3. For faster leaching, you need to have a way to boil the kernels. Place the shelled, pounded kernels into the cooking container and bring to a boil and change the water every 45 minutes or so for about 6 or 7 hours of boiling. The other way is to place the kernels into a container of cold water and change out the water about every 6 hours. This may take up to a week to accomplish. A faster way of using cold water is if you have stream available. Place the kernels in a cloth bag or something similar and place in the stream of running water. It should be ready in about 2 days.
- 4. After leaching, pound the kernels into a mush and spread out to dry into flour, or use the mush to make porridge or to thick soups.
- 5. Add water to the flour to make bannok bread if you have the ingredients to do so. If the flour is all you have, you can make flat cakes and cook on a flat rock.