The Lacey Oak Tree Loves Calling the Hill Country Home

By  | 
Tony Maples Photography


Once upon a time, an aristocratic Englishman came to the Texas Hill Country and discovered a unique oak tree with blue-green colored foliage. It was the late 1800s and Howard Lacey became the namesake of the Lacey oak (Quercus laceyi). After immigrating to the United States and settling in Kerr County from 1882 to 1919, Lacey worked as a rancher and naturalist. Paired with his recognized efforts breeding Angora goats, he collected regional flora and fauna, sharing information with both European and United States scientists.

A relatively slow grower, the deciduous Lacey oak eventually develops into a tree that is small to medium-sized. Its maximum height is roughly 45 feet. It lives happily in the Hill Country, as it has strong defenses against oak wilt and is drought-resistant. The Edwards limestone where it makes its home perfectly provides the good drainage and calcareous soil the Lacey oak needs. Look for this tree on high hilltops, specifically on the Edwards Plateau and just west of the Pecos River. It can also be found in the mountains of northeastern Mexico and is known as the rock oak, blue oak, smoky oak, canyon oak, mountain oak, and encino robie.

The Lacey Oak Tree Loves Calling the Hill Country Home

Photo: @jakew843 via Twenty20

Howard Lacey worked with the National Geographic Society, Smithsonian Institute, Audubon Society, British Museum of Natural History, and American Ornithological Union. In addition to the oak receiving his name, three mice of the region were tied to Lacey in honor of his zoology discoveries: the white-ankled mouse, the brush mouse, and a harvest mouse. In 1919, Lacey became ill and sold his ranch. He donated his specimen collection to the Witte Museum and returned to England, where he died in 1929. Many thanks to Howard Lacey for his work identifying plants and animals in the Texas Hill Country. He would likely be delighted to learn the Lacey oak is a designated Texas Superstar Tree!