California Live Oak, or Coastal Live Oak ~ Quercus agrifolia (“field leaved oak”)

by Susan Draffan

California Live Oak photo from Wikipedia (public domain granted)
California Live Oak photo from Wikipedia (public domain granted)

Oak trees and humanity share a venerable and unique relationship.

With more than 500 species worldwide, the Oak is an apex species that has long represented archetypal qualities of majesty, strength, durability, endurance, steadfastness, protection, fertility, prosperity, courage, longevity, faith, truth, wisdom and even immortality. In some traditions oaks have symbolized the Tree of Life, and acorns the cosmic egg from which all of life emerges.

Since ancient times, oak groves have served as nature’s cathedrals, overseeing and witnessing countless sacred ceremonies dedicated to nature and her magical, physical and spiritual powers. In myths and practice, the Oak stood as the King of the forest, playing the role of divine masculine counterpart to the feminine earth goddess. In Celtic cultures particularly, fruitful harvests were attributed to their sacred marriage, and droughts and famines to a failed union between the divinely appointed king and the lands he ruled.

Like other oaks, California Live Oaks are long lived, sometimes up to 1500 years, and grow to be tall with massive girths. They can remain standing and bearing green leaves even when nearly expired with hollowed out cores, and sometimes fall unexpectedly because they appeared to be thriving on the outside.

Their exceedingly long taproots extend deeply into the earth, while many smaller shallow roots grow horizontally to their drip lines. These characteristics denote their connection to the land, while making them vulnerable to overwatering or impaction, thus explaining the necessity of respecting them and their surroundings in order to ensure their survival. Live oaks are legally protected in various areas of California today, reflecting how our modern society continues to revere and protect them for future generations.

California Live Oak male flower catkins photo courtesy, used with permission and our gratitude
California Live Oak male flower catkins photo courtesy, used with permission and our gratitude

As their name implies, Live Oaks are evergreen natives that belong tothe Red Oak section of the Quercus genus. They have shiny, prickly leaves similar to holly. Their tiny golden red female flowers appear in the leaf axils, while their golden green male flower panicles are pendulous, hanging down on the ends of branches like fairy necklaces. Green flowers often signify an etheric connection to the nature kingdom and nature spirits, and this certainly holds true with Live Oaks. Wind pollinated, they reliably bloom precisely at Spring Equinox where I live in southern California, which I consider to be a sign of their life giving properties.

The respect that Live Oaks consistently garner is due in large part to being a keystone species - one that supports entire communities that include other life forms through symbiotic relationships. They connect with other oaks and compatible plants through vast underground networks of mycorrhizal fungi. The trees provide chlorophyll and access to deep water to the fungi through their long taproots. In return, the fungi form an immune system for the oaks by encouraging beneficial bacteria, insects and invertebrates; protecting them from pathogens; adjusting moisture and nutrient levels; and providing erosion control by binding soil particles around their fragile surface rootlets. Nearly all the native plants in California’s wild lands are interconnected via such unseen networks of microscopic life.

California’s stately Live Oaks are very drought tolerant, and they flourish in what most plants from other areas would consider to be poor soils lacking in nutrients, due to this network of life they contribute to and protect with their fallen leaves. Their community services extend above ground also; Live Oaks provide shelter and food to an abundance of wildlife, housing many species of birds, squirrels, other herbivores, a plethora of insects, mistletoe and lichen. Their substantial limbs offer protection from the harsh sun and intense heat through the summer months, comforting humans and other species who seek haven beneath and upon their sheltering arms.

In all these ways, oaks can teach us how to be deeply rooted, how to coexist, and how to create and support regional communities. They demonstrate how to cultivate abundance through our connectivity and sharing with those around us. Further, they model how to do this even in times of stress or when we harbor a sense of lack – showing us how to be conserving, resourceful and generous through difficult times. California is currently suffering extreme drought conditions, and I find myself turning to the oaks for guidance and reassurance. I’m also watering the oaks in my yard now that winter is here but the rain is not, in order to contribute to their well-being.

Live Oaks have an evocative appearance that differs from deciduous, upright oak trees. In maturity they display immense gnarled branches that reach outward, gracefully bend down to the ground and then turn again, rising upward toward the wide, spreading crown of the trees. In indigenous oak woodlands they present a magical appearance with their limbs curving sinuously over paths and filtering the brilliant sunlight in a way that brings the subtle realms to mind. In more than one ancient culture, oaks were believed to be portals to the unseen dimensions and to offer gifts of prophecy to those who worshipped them.

In my experience this is true, and I find it even more interesting when considered alongside their capacity to provide such multifaceted support on the physical plane. It is as if by their presence and wisdom, they protect and inform and meet us wherever our needs coalesce with their gifts, on multiple levels, seen and unseen.

California Live Oak tree photo from the wonderful native plant nursery website, used with permission
California Live Oak tree photo from the wonderful native plant nursery website, used with permission

The Deva of Live Oak trees tells us it is dedicated to contributing tothe whole, viewing all as One in a very real sense. It presents and maintains a vast, interconnecting web that unifies disparate life forms into a cohesive, interdependent community. This community includes not only the visible and invisible inhabitants on and within the land, but also those coexisting in the subtle cosmic dimensions weaving within and around us.

The Deva says, “We enjoy interacting with humans and supporting them, and wish to inspire loving service. We anchor healing energy in the land, and welcome you under our branches for respite. We are home to many nature spirits and elemental beings. Our strength and subtle energies support their efforts and joyfulness. Our magic has been earned through centuries of engaging with humans possessing a high degree of awareness of plant wisdom. We have been greatly honored and protected since ancient times, when you recognized us as fellow conscious beings supportive of spiritual growth. Many wise men and women have experienced shifts and expansions in their awareness from living in concert with us. This speaks to our powers. Our legend precedes us, and we are calling out now to those who can hear us and heed our call. We ask you to enlighten and teach others, and to work with us to save our planetary home and all Life as it now exists.”

California Live Oak flower essence naturally mirrors the same physical and metaphysical qualities as the trees. It encompasses but goes beyond the properties of the English Bach Flower Oak remedy, helping us to be sustainable within our selves, to marshal our vitality in dedicated and lifelong service to our purpose and our community, and when used with pure intention and proper focus, to open to unseen forces and timeless wisdom.

Its key vibrational properties are:

“The Dryad” by Evelyn de Morgan (1855 – 1919, artwork in public domain) (The word “dryad” originates from the Greek word “drys” for oak, but has come to mean all tree nymphs)
“The Dryad” by Evelyn de Morgan (1855 – 1919, artwork in public domain) (The word “dryad” originates from the Greek word “drys” for oak, but has come to mean all tree nymphs)
  •  service without exhaustion; endurance despite hardship
  •  measured use of resources; embracing abundance in the absence of surplus
  •  joy, generosity and fulfillment in community service
  • personal balance inwardly and outwardly
  • productive longevity; serving the whole throughout one’s life
  • dedication to and persistence and constancy with one’s sacred purpose
  •  intuitive access to prophetic wisdom; divination of past, present and future

When I asked the Deva of California Wild Oak for a statement of what is most important for us to know about these trees in this particular time, I was asked to share the following.

“Humanity needs to know, and to trust, that you have far greater strengths and knowledge than you yet comprehend in your day to day consciousness. Like we do, you bridge Heaven and Earth. Like us, you are planetary beings in possession of cosmic wisdom, but you are only beginning to tap into what you can access. It is not necessary to enter another world or dimension, to journey through intense or shamanic means in order to reach your own insights into Truth. It is all right there inside of you.

“If you can begin to embody all that you are, by calling your souls fully home to this gorgeous planet, your hearts will blossom in such ways that you will step naturally forward into the service of your own race and all the species on this planet you came to steward. This is your rightful role, your divinely intended destiny. You have only to understand, accept and embrace Who You Are. If you can do that, all of Life will celebrate with you and feel gratitude you have not known in your conscious memories. We know this is your contract, and will do all we can to encourage and help you fulfill it.

“In truth, it is easy for you to accomplish this when you are centered in your heart of hearts, your deep and holy heart, your inner Self, because it is Love that will show you the way. It is your true nature. Humanity is Love. You came to Earth to know, to share, to Be Love. So please … open your hearts to all that surrounds you. Cease differentiating between “good” and “bad”, light and dark; these cannot exist without one another. They are two sides of the same coin. It is polarity thinking that created the problems you are facing and trying to solve, and from which the world must emerge into unity.

“Dissolving differences in the supreme Light of Love is your assignment and your destiny. When you learn to do that for yourselves, you will be doing it for all of us, and you will set us all free. This is your evolutionary pathway, and ours. We thank you, and we bless you with all that we are and may become, together.”