Plant Species of the Bright Angel Trail:
Gambel oak, Quercus gambelii

See Plant Guide to Bright Angel Trail for an introduction to this page.


Identification status: high confidence. There is no other oak species at the Grand Canyon that even remotely resembles this species. If you see an oak with deeply-lobed leaves, with rounded lobes that do not have a spiny tip, you're looking at Quercus gambelii.

Compare the pictures of the leaves on this page to those of Q. turbinella on this same trail. Also see that page for a discussion of hybrids between Q. gambelii and Q. turbinella.

Southern California botanists will be amazed at the simplicity of the Quercus key for the Grand Canyon.

Southern California botanists will note the superficial resemblance of this species to black oak, Quercus kelloggii. Both are deciduous, both have similarly-lobed and -colored leaves, and grow in similar habitats. However, the lobes of Q. kelloggii are pointed, not rounded, and this species is always a tree, whereas Q. gambelii can have both shrub and tree forms. More fundamentally, they are in different sections within the oak family; Q. kelloggii is a black oak, Section Lobatae; Q. gambelii is a white oak, Section Quercus.

From a SEINet search, there are 36 vouchers of this species from the Coconino County portion of the Grand Canyon, including a voucher from the uppermost mile of this trail. Note that there may be additional vouchers at other herbaria not available through SEINet.

First occurrence on Bright Angel Trail: mile 0.00, elevation 6845 feet (2086 m).

Number of plants along Trail: This is very common along the trail. At least 50 plants were found in at least 9 different locations in September 2007.


From 5 September 2007, mile 0.00:

Leaves on the shrubby stems at the base of the specimen at the trailhead, along with hoary-aster, Machaeranthera canescens, in bloom:

Overhead view of the specimen at the trailhead as seen from the trail:

Closeup view of leaves from the specimen at the trailhead as seen from the trail:


See Resources for Grand Canyon Flora for further information on most of these references. Entries in the second column are either the name used in that source or a page reference. The name is linked to online pages when available. If a given reference does not contain this taxon, the entry is either left blank or contains a hyphen.

Scientific NameQuercus gambelii
1987 Grand Canyon Flora NameQuercus gambelii
1987 Grand Canyon Flora page40
SEINet Image PageQuercus gambelii
USDA PlantsQuercus gambelii
Flora of North AmericaQuercus gambelii
Jepson Manual for California treatment
Jepson Manual illustration page
Kearney and Peebles NameQuercus gambelii
Kearney and Peebles Page #219
Vascular Plants of AZ nameQuercus gambelii
Vascular Plants of AZ volume: page27:205
Huisinga et al 2006 nameQuercus gambelii
Huisinga et al 2006 page numbers66-67
Epple NameQuercus gambelii
Epple description page #44
Epple pix #78
McDougall 1964 nameQuercus gambelii
McDougall 1964 page #73
Brian 2000 Name
Phillips 1979 name-
Phillips 1979 page #-
Stockert 1967 name-
Stockert 1967 page #-

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Copyright © 2007 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last Update: 28 September 2007