Gambel Oak

Gamble Oak

Gamble Oak Tree

Scientific name: Quercus Gambelii

Alternate Names: Scrub Oak, Rocky Mountain White Oak, Utah White Oak

Description: Deciduous shrub or tree with rounded crown, often in colonies from underground creeping root system. This is the characteristic oak of Arizona’s Oak Creek Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park and Colorado foothills south of Denver. Grows well on dry slopes.

Leaves: 2-7 inches long, 1.5 to 3.5 inches wide, with 7 to 11 deep lobes.

Gamble Oak in Canyon

Gamble Oak in Canyon

They are smooth on the upper surface, hairy below. Dark green color turns to yellow, orange or reddish in fall.

Fruits: Broadly oval acorns, ¾ inch, are nearly half enclosed by a bowl-shaped cup with hairy scales.

Elevation: 5,000 to 8,000 feet.

Height: Shrub grows 15 to 30 feet tall, tree up to 60 feet

Gamble Oak Leaves

Gamble Oak Leaves

Diameter: 5 to 10 inches

Bark: Similar to White Oak’s bark, (gray, rought, narrow vertical block of scaly plates).

Habitat: Slopes and valleys, in mountains, foothills, plateaus; scattered with Ponderosa Pine.

Range: New Mexico, Utah, Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Nevada. Tolerant of both cold mountains and low, warmer areas.

Uses: Fence posts and fuel

Wildlife: Foliage is browsed by deer and sometimes livestock.

Gamble Oak Seeds

Gamble Oak Seeds

Wild Turkeys, squirrels, and other wildlife, as well as hogs and other domestic animals eat the sweetish acorns.


Gamble Oak Bark

Gamble Oak Bark

9 comments “Gambel Oak”

please tell me what eats these three plants Gambel oak, Silver Oak, and Skunk bush. please please reply send me an email it is for school. I can’t find it anywere.

my email is

Hi Phillip,
All of the plants you mention provide seeds for wildlife. Deer are especially fond of acorns and a variety of birds eat skunk bush seeds. The leaves are food for caterpillars and oaks are sometimes browsed by deer as well.

Does this grow in sandy soil, clay soil or? Would like to try growing these in Santa Fe

I have seen it in a variety of soils. It should perform well in Santa Fe.

We have many oaks that are all of a sudden turning brown(the leaves) is there a disease or beetle that is causing this? we do not want to lose them if possible.

Thank you

These acorns are edible and don’t have to be treated to remove the bitter constituents. Scrub Jays harvest them to eat during the winter. Possibly due to the lack of bitter constituents, a large percentage of Gambel acorns are usually bug-infested. Scrub Jays pick acorns one at a time and whack them on a tree branch to find out whether they’re bug-infested. Then they either drop the acorn or take it to a staging area where it’s later moved to a more permanent cache. (Because Jays steal from each other, this caching process is elaborate.)

They’re also cached and eaten by Rock Squirrels.

Thanks for this additional natural history on the Gambel.

A number of things could cause oak leaves to turn brown. If they do not leaf out in the spring or the leaves are distorted in some way, take a small sample of stem with leaves to a good local nursery (not a big box store) or your county Extension agent. If there is a Forest Service office nearby that would be another option.

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