Oak Tree Leaves
One of the easiest ways to identify an Oak tree is to look at its leaves. Oak tree leaves have a distinctive leaf shape. You can even identify the 600 species of Oak trees based on the shape and color of their leaves.
Oak trees can grow to be 100 feet tall. Most are deciduous, losing their leaves each fall after a showy color display of red, orange and yellow. Some species of Oak trees, called the "Live Oaks," remain evergreen year-round.
Regardless of whether the Oak tree keeps or loses its leaves, and regardless of the Oak tree species, an Oak tree leaf has some common characteristics:
- The leaves are broad, flat, and thin.
- The leaves have lobes and sinuses. The lobes are the rounded edges and the sinuses are the spaces between the lobes. There can be up to 20 lobes on an Oak tree leaf.
- The leaves can be leathery looking on the top and are usually a lighter color on the underside.
Identifying Oak Tree Species
Now that you have a general idea about the appearance of an Oak tree leaf, here is a list of some common Oak tree species and a description of their leaves:
- Blackjack Oak Leaf: Three shallow lobes with a sharp tip, leathery bell-shape, orange hair underneath
- Black Oak Leaf: Seven to nine lobes; four to ten inches long; shiny green on top and pale underneath; often with brown hairs
- Bur Oak Leaf: Five to nine lobes; base fiddle-shaped; deep middle sinuses; tip of the leaf resembles a crown; dark green on top and pale and fuzzy underneath
- Canyon Live Oak Leaf: Sharp tipped lobes with bristles at the tip; thick and leathery; dark green on top
- Cherry Bark Oak Leaf: Five to eleven pointed lobes; sinuses cut up to half-way to the mid-vein; up to ten inches long with short, broad tips; smooth and shiny upper with pale, star-shaped hairs underneath
- Chestnut Oak Leaf: Oval shape; wider towards the tip; rounded margins with small teeth; glossy green surface
- Chinquapin Oak Leaf: Toothed margins; parallel side veins and yellow mid vein; glossy, dark green on top
- Coast Live Oak Leaf: Evergreen; glossy, waxy leaves; thin, toothed edges
- Common Oak Leaf: Four to five rounded lobes; dull green on top and brighter underneath; grow in bunches with no stem
- Cork Oak Leaf: Egg to elliptical shape; wavy teeth; round lobes; cupped surface; dark green leathery tops; whitened underneath
- Holm Oak Leaf: Higher leaves are smooth and lower ones are spiny; dark green; turn glossy as they age
- Hungarian Oak Leaf: Large and dark green leaves; pointed at the tip; boldly cut with regular, rounded lobes
- Japanese Blue Oak Leaf: New leaves are red and turn glossy green as they get older
- Live Oak Leaf: Narrow and elliptical; pointed tip; edge is slightly wavy; glossy, leathery dark green surface; dull grayish-green underneath
- Northern Pin Oak Leaf: Long and narrow shape; long stem; two to five deep lobes; glossy green surface turns deep red in the fall
- Northern Red Oak Leaf: Seven to eleven lobes; taper to tips with bristles; shallow sinuses; red mid veins; deep red in fall
- Nuttall Oak Leaf: Surface changes from dull green to deep red in the fall; angular lobes; new leaves have red veins
- Pin Oak Leaf: Elliptical and sharply pointed; five to nine bristle-tipped lobes with wide, U-shaped sinuses; lobes almost at right angles to the mid vein; bright green with hairy underneath surface
- Post Oak Leaf: Oblong with three lobes; two middle lobes have a square shape; thick texture; broad sinuses; upper surface is shiny, waxy and dark green; underneath surface is gray-green with star-shaped hairs
- Red Oak Leaf: Angular leaves with rounded base; small spines
- Scarlet Oak Leaf: Seven lobes with deep rounded sinuses; bristles at the tips; V-shaped base; hairy underneath
- Shingle Oak Leaf: Oval leaves without lobes; yellow mid veins
- Shumard Oak Leaf: Five to seven rounded lobes; bristled tips; smooth and dark green on top; pale underneath with brown waxy hairs
- Southern Red Oak Leaf: Three to five deep lobes with bristled tips; reverse bell-shape base; smooth and dark green on top; yellow hairs underneath
- Swamp Chestnut Oak Leaf: 15 to 20 lobe-like rounded teeth on each side; coarse texture; deep sinuses; silvery-colored hairs underneath
- Turkey Oak Leaf: Sharp tips with bristles; deep lobes; narrow leaves; shiny green on top
- Water Oak Leaf: Usually rounded at the top and wedged at the base; can resemble a broad spatula or a duck's foot; lobe tips have bristles; blue-green top and paler bluish-green with rusty brown hairs underneath
- White Oak Leaf: Seven to nine finger-shaped lobes; bottom of the deep sinuses are rounded; no spines; dark green top; light green underneath
- Willow Oak Leaf: Small, slender, and shaped like a spear with bristles at the tip; waxy texture; tiny bristles at the tip; color varies from light green to yellowish-brown; turn yellow in the fall
Many Oak tree species are geographically isolated, often making it difficult to find detailed information about their leaf design and appearance. Your local nursery professional can be an excellent resource if you are unable to identify the leaves of a specific Oak tree using online sources such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture.