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Plant Focus

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Quercus stenophylloides is a medium-sized evergreen oak (15–18 m tall) restricted to central and northern Taiwan.

A Propagation Manual for Quercus—in Spanish

Quercus Propagation Manual
Quercus Propagation Manual: An easy and quick guide to growing oaks
in Mexico and Central America

(in Spanish).
Editors: Dr. Maricela Rodríguez-Acosta and Allen Coombes

Available for download here

The Quercus Propagation Manual published in Spanish last month fills a void. There has long been a need for a Spanish-language introduction to oaks with practical information on how to grow them. Plenty of material on these topics exists, but mostly in English—or French, in the case of the outstanding (though mute on propagation) Guide illustré des chênes. The Manual does much more than simply fill the gap; it covers an extensive range of subjects, from the ecological, cultural, and commercial importance of oaks to the latest techniques used in micropropagation. What is particularly satisfying is that the material is written not from the periphery of oak diversity, as is the case with existing Anglo-American or European texts, but from the very center of gravity of the genus, which is more diverse in Mexico and Central America than anywhere else in the world. Whereas we are used to treating Q. robur or Q. petraea (in Europe) and Q. alba or Q. macrocarpa (in the US) as the plain-vanilla, widespread species of oaks, in this manual their place is taken by Q. rugosa, Q. crassifolia, and Q. polymorpha.

The publication is edited by IOS members Dr. Maricela Rodríguez-Acosta and Allen Coombes of the Botanic Garden of the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (JBU-BUAP),  Mexico; it was was made possible by the collaboration and contribution of the Global Trees Conservation Program of The Morton Arboretum, the JBU-BUAP, Botanic Gardens Conservation International, The Global Trees Campaign, and the Franklinia Foundation.

The text is written by some of the leading experts in Quercus matters. An introduction by Susana Valencia-Avalos discusses the importance of oaks. In the following chapter she is joined by Allen Coombes and Maricela Rodríguez-Acosta, who emphasize the need to cultivate oaks, especially in Mexico and Central America, detailing the species native to Mexico, their conservation status, and the chief characteristics of the genus (the list of 168 species, established for this publication, was subsequently adopted by the IUCN Red List of Oaks 2020). The topic of acorn collecting is discussed by Allen Coombes, who includes many valuable and practical tips, evidently written from considerable experience (e.g., including a little soil from the base of the tree in the baggie with your acorns will allow them to have access to the mycorrhiza associated with the species). The baton is then passed back to Maricela, who describes oak germination from a Mexican perspective; next, Arturo Parra Suárez of JBU-BUAP joins her to deliver valuable advice on methods and materials required for the successful raising of seedlings.  This is not the usual tricks of the trade for the weekend hobbyist: given the conservation-oriented scope of the publication, the advice is also geared for those needing to propagate seedlings by the thousands for major restoration projects.

Quercus paxtalensis in pots
Quercus paxtalensis seedlings in Polipot pots, where they will remain till they are two years old. The Manual recommends three-fold labeling of seedlings: a label attached to the pot, another buried between the side of the pot and the potting soil, and the name written with permanent marker on the side of the pot. © Maricela Rodríguez-Acosta

Nina Bassuk of the University of Cornell collaborates on the subject of grafting and propagating oaks from cuttings, mainly focusing on the latter: grafting is covered superficially and readers are directed to the publications by Dirk Benoit and Brian Humphrey for further information. Paulina Morales Sandoval, a researcher at JBU-BUAP, describes the latest methods for micropropagation in vitro, citing the work and methods of Li Qiansheng et al. published in International Oaks No. 30. The publication is rounded off with two chapters that zoom back out to the big picture: Antonio González Rodríguez and Jesús Llanderal Mendoza of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM - Morelia) describe the natural variation of oak species and the need to incorporate it in conservation efforts; then the Global Tree Conservation Program team from The Morton Arboretum outline a strategy for the conservation of Mexican oaks. This will be carried out under the auspices of the Global Conservation Oak Consortium, led by Dr. Murphy Westwood, with Maricela Rodríguez-Acosta as Coordinator for Mexico and Central America. The publication is in fact one of the first achievements of this Mexican/Central America branch of the GCCO, produced to support their oak conservation work; it is an impressive accomplishment, auguring a very successful future for this organization.

Quercus rugosa
Variation of Quercus rugosa populations along its latitudinal distribution in Mexico: a) comparison of leaf size of individuals in a population near San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas (left) and Casas Grandes, Chihuahua (right); b) views from side and above of seedlings raised under same greenhouse conditions from seeds sourced from Chiapas and Chihuahua; c) variation of acorn size in various populations of Q. rugosa along the latitudinal gradient of its distribution; d) Q. rugosa in cultivation at JBU-BUAP. © Antonio González Rodríguez (a-c),  Maricela Rodríguez-Acosta (d)

This publication puts Spanish speakers in the rare—and privileged—position of having access to one of the best resources for information on oaks and their cultivation. This privilege could—and should— be temporary: a translation into English of the Manual para la Propagación de Quercus would be a very worthwhile endeavor.

Quercus brandeegei planting
Planting of a Quercus brandegeei seedling at JBU-BUAP, with Susan Valencia-Avalos, researcher at UNAM's Science Department (left) and the editors of the Quercus Propagation Manual: Maricela Rodríguez-Acosta, Director or JBU-BUAP and Allen Coombes, Curator of Scientific Collections at JBU-BUAP - Photo: JBU-BUAP