Saturday, May 21, 2011

20 Native Oak Trees for the Landscape

Want an oak tree for your property but are unsure which one to choose? This article profiles twenty oak trees, all native trees, which you can plant in your landscape. Each profile will tell the planting instructions, general overview of the tree, and little trivia bits on some of them for fun.
 
Quercus alba L. (White Oak)
This deciduous moderate growth tree prefers sun and moist well drained soil. It will reach a mature height of 60-100 feet tall and a spread of 50-90 feet wide. It has messy yellow green catkins for flowers in May and one inch acorns for fruits. It will have wonderful purplish red foliage and be long lasting in color. This tree is difficult to transplant but makes a nice shade tree. White Oak is a drought tolerant tree.
 
Quercus coccinea Muenchh. (Scarlet Oak)
This rapid growth oak will reach a height of 50-80 feet tall and have a spread 40-50 feet. Its flowers are on catkins or spikes depending on sex. Fruits are one inch acorns that are wildlife favorites. This oak, like its name, has brilliant scarlet fall color. It has 3-6 inch leaves that are dark green on upright spreading branches. It is a good shade or lawn tree.
 
Quercus falcata Michx. (Southern Red Oak)
This deciduous moderate growth oak prefers a bright sunny spot in the yard. It will get up to 70-90 feet tall and is drought tolerant. Its flowers are on catkins or spikes depending on sex. It has 5-9 inch simple leaves that are shiny green with tan underneath the leaf. This oak has good heavy wood and is a good shade tree. The Native Americans used this for fever, asthma, and as an antiseptic and tonic.
 
Quercus georgiana M. A. Curtis (Georgia Oak)
This deciduous oak loves sunny spots. It reaches heights of 15-30 feet and has 1-5 inch leaves. Expect red to purple fall color and ½ inch acorns for fruits. This is a drought resistant tree.
 
Quercus incana Bartr. (Bluejack Oak)
The Blue Jack Oak gets up to 40 feet tall at maturity and has shiny deciduous leaves. It prefers full sun and wet soil and will have acorn fruits that are loved by wildlife. This oak has near black bark and is rough in texture.
 
Quercus laevis Walt. (Turkey Oak)
An oak that gets up to 20-30 feet tall, Quercus laevis has an irregular crown and thick rough bark. This is a taproot tree that is hard to transplant. Its leaves look like a turkey foot, hence the name. Drought tolerant with a good red fall color, it will have creamy flowers in early spring. This oak provides good shelter and food for wildlife.
 
Quercus laurifolia Michx. (Swamp Laurel Oak, Diamond-leaf Oak)
This oak reaches a mature height of 60-70 feet tall and transplants well if needed. Its foliage is lighter green than most oaks, the leaves get up to 4 inches long, and it is similar to Quercus nigra. It prefers damp soil, so make sure this one doesn't dry out in the summertime. Flowers form in catkins and are unisex. Good acorn fruits without it being overly messy. It is an evergreen.
 
Quercus lyrata Walt. (Overcup Oak)
This deciduous oak gets up to 35-45 feet tall and has a spread of 35-40 feet wide. It has a moderate growth rate and prefers full sun. It has a beautiful uniform appearance, is adaptable, and makes a good shade tree. The acorn fruits are up to one inch, with the cup of the acorn almost fully enclosing the acorn. The lumbar from this oak is marketed as "white oak" and is very nice.
 
Quercus marilandica Muenchh. (Blackjack Oak)
Growing up to 60 feet tall with a gnarled trunk and round crown, this oak does well in bad soil conditions. It is loved by deer and turkey for its acorns. It has tough waxy leaves and a good strong wood that is used for fuel and charcoal.
 
Quercus michauxii Nutt. (Swamp Chesnut Oak, Basket Oak, Cow Oak)
Normal oaks of this variety will get up to 60-80 feet tall with a spread of 50-70 feet. Trunk size will reach 2-3 feet in diameter. (The National Champion is in Alabama and reached 200 feet tall with a 5 foot trunk mass and a 148 foot canopy.) Leaves reach 6-9 inches long and are deciduous with 10-14 teeth per leaf. Plant this oak in full sun to have the fastest growth. This will make a great shade tree. Lore has this as a Native American food source. This is a larval tree for Juvenalls dustywing butterfly.
 
Quercus muehlenbergii Engelm. (Chinkapin Oak)
Another good choice due to it being pest free, drought tolerant, and adaptable; this oak reaches 40-50 feet tall and has a spread of 40-60 feet. Its leaves are like Castanea pumila with dark yellow fall color and deciduous green summer color. This makes it a good specimen tree. Plant in full sun for optimum growth; it is difficult to transplant if you put it in a bad location.
 
Quercus myrtifolia Willd. (Myrtle Oak)
This drought tolerant oak gets up to 30 feet tall and prefers full sun or partial shade. Evergreen; this "shrubby" tree has shiny smooth leaves and abundant acorns. This is a salt tolerant tree.
 
Quercus oglethorpensis (Oglethorpe Oak)
This tree gets up to 30-40 feet tall and is good in all soil types. It loves full sun. It's an interesting tree with a straight trunk, crooked branches, and bronze red fall color. There are also brown acorns for squirrels and such. Oglethorpe oak was discovered in 1940 in Oglethorpe, Georgia. It is one of the least known but most distinctive oaks out there.
 
Quercus phellos L. (Willow Oak)
This tree gets up to 60-80 feet tall and has a spacing need of 30-40 feet. It loves full sun and acidic soil with high moisture needs. There are yellow green blooms in mid spring. It is a good shade tree with small acorns. A fast grower and easy to transplant, Willow Oak is used for lumbar and pulpwood sources. BEWARE: Parts are poisonous if ingested.
 
Quercus prinus L. (Chesnut Oak)
This tree gets up to 60-70 feet tall and loves full sun and well-drained acidic soil. It has deciduous yellow green foliage and a round and dense growth habit. Its acorns are loved by wildlife and used as a food source. There is tremendous yellow orange fall color.
 
Quercus rubra L. (Northern Red Oak)
This tree gets up to 60 feet tall and needs a spacing of 80 feet wide. It loves full sun and rich, loamy, moist, acidic soil. It has great red fall color and is a good timber tree for furniture and flooring. There are yellow brown catkins for flowers in April, with wildlife eating the acorn fruits. It is a moderately fast grower and easy to transplant. BEWARE: Parts are poisonous if ingested.
 
Quercus shumardii Buckl. (Shumard's Oak)
This tree gets up to 60-90 feet tall and prefers full sun with acidic soil. There are inconspicuous brown flowers in summer and acorns for fruits. There is good red/orange color in fall. This oak performs fine in poor soils and is drought tolerant. It's a pretty fast grower.
 
Quercus stellata Wangenh. (Post Oak)
This oak is a slow grower that gets up to 40-50 feet tall. It prefers full sun and soil type is unimportant, although best conditions call for sandy dry well-drained soil. There is a 4-8 inch leaf and non-showy golden brown flowers. It is a good shade tree, with variable fall color and drought tolerance. This oak is a bit more susceptible to disease than others.
 
Quercus velutina Lam. (Black Oak)
This tree gets up to 50-60 feet tall and prefers full sun in moist rich acidic soils. It's a deciduous tree with shiny dark green leaves. It will turn reddish brown in the fall and grow moderately fast. Its bowl shaped acorns and almost black bark make it distinguishable. It dislikes being disturbed so it's hard to transplant.


Quercus virginiana P. Mill. (Live Oak)
This tree gets up to 50 feet tall on average. It prefers full sun to partial shade and acidic soil. There is smooth evergreen foliage and stately curved branches. Its blooms are creamy and appear in mid spring. The prickly branches may have hanging moss on them, and this tree has been described as "very southern looking". BEWARE: Parts are poisonous if ingested.

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