|Leaf Shape||Elliptical with a solid stem|
|Mature Height||Between 65 and 100 feet|
|Best Habitat||Moist soil and full to partial sunlight|
|Best Climate||Mild to Warm|
|Uses||Furniture, flooring, medicine, shade
Oak TreeThe mighty Oak tree is a symbol of strength and endurance. In fact, in 2004, the United States Congress passed legislation naming the oak as America's national tree. In addition to being attractive, the deciduous tree is also extremely functional. However, those are just some of the reasons so many homeowners proudly feature oak trees on their property.
Appearance of the Tree
Oak trees are hard to miss. Their majestic branches cover a large area, though they are just one of the tree's most recognizable features. The oak's massive height is another key characteristic. Oak trees can grow to 100 feet tall, and have a spread of 150 feet across.
Other notable traits of the oak tree include:
- Leaves: The simple leaves consist of a single elliptical shape and a solid stem. They vary in size from two to five inches in length and rarely exceed two inches in width. The upper portion of the leaf is dark green with a shiny texture, while the bottom has a dull gray tone with a leathery feel. In the fall, oak leaves turn awe-inspiring shades of red, orange and yellow.
- Bark: The oak's bark takes on a life of its own as it ages. While younger oaks feature a dark brown bark, older trees develop a red tinge and often turn black. In addition, as the tree matures its bark furrows and develops scaly ridges.
- Fruit: The fruit of the oak tree is the acorn. The light to dark brown, bitter-tasting nut seldom grows beyond an inch and can be found attached to the tree by itself or in clusters of as many as five nuts. Generally, oak trees do not produce acorns for the first 20 growing seasons, though some have gone as long as 50 years before generating the popular nuts.
Oak Tree Types
The oak family is one of the largest in the world. Boasting more than 600 species, oaks are typically classified in three main groups:
- White Oak: This tree is distinguished by its grayish-brown bark and majestic beauty. Unlike its cousins, the white oak's branches are not as twisted and gnarled. The tree produces rich green leaves and slender acorns that vary in color from light green to tan.
- Red Oak: The tree is best known for its leaves which turn a brilliant scarlet color in the fall. In addition, the red oak is recognized by its golden hairs that grow on the underbelly of its leaves.
- Black Oak: This tree's name is derived from its dark-colored trunk. Another identifying characteristic is its extremely twisted branches and root system. The black oak's highly contorted shape makes it easy to spot with or without leaves.
Most types of oak trees age well and can survive hundreds of years. The typical oak can live to be at least 200 years with some exceeding the 600 year mark.
Where the Oak GrowsWhile it is native to North America, the oak tree can grow and prosper in other parts of the world including Europe where it is the national tree of:
The oak tree thrives in temperate conditions like those found in the southeastern portion of the United States. Oak trees are abundant from Maryland to Texas where they are able to get the water and sunshine they needs to thrive. Oaks do best in regions where they are exposed to full or partial sunlight and their roots are able to access plenty of water. Mature oak trees can draw more than 50 gallons of water per day.
Oaks produce some of the hardest wood on earth. Consequently, the tree is harvested to create everything from furniture to floors, ships to railroad ties. However, the oak's dense, rigid, durable wood is not used exclusively as building material. The wood of the white oak is often used to make wine barrels and canoes.
Other popular uses include:
- Native Americans would ground acorns to make flour.
- Bark of the white oak is heated and used to alleviate insect bites or consumed to cure stomach ailments.
- Tannin from oak bark is used in leather preparation.
- Oak trees are the preferred habitats of owls, squirrels and hedgehogs.
The oak tree is firmly rooted in ancient history. Centuries ago the Greeks and Romans revered the oak and used its leaves to heal wounds. However, the tree's longest association is with the British Isles where the Druids considered oaks to have mystical powers. Legend has it that oak trees carry the souls of men who have passed away. Another interesting oak tree fact comes from medieval times: King Arthur's round table is believed to be made from a single piece of ancient oak.
Oaks may be one of the hardiest trees on the planet, but they are not indestructible. The species is susceptible to several diseases, including:
- Sudden Oak Death: This aggressive disease can kill an oak very quickly. The fungus causes cankers to form on the tree's trunk. If left unattended, the cankers can bleed and spread the deadly disease to other parts of the tree.
- Oak Wilt: This disease is prevalent in the United States where it is considered one of the most serious tree ailments. What makes this fungal disease so severe is that it damages leaves and can spread from tree to tree via connected root systems.
- Shoestring Root Rot: Caused by a soiled-based fungus, shoestring root rot attacks oak trees from the bottom up. The disease moves up the roots and into the heart of the tree where it can linger and eventually kill the oak.
Oak trees have a reputation for being easy to care for. However, this doesn't mean that you can simply plant the tree and neglect it for long periods of time.
In order to maintain a healthy oak tree on your property consider the following tips:
- Protect the tree's root system by keeping it well hydrated, especially during the hot summer months.
- Avoid planting oak trees near buildings or other trees, as its large roots can affect drainage and tear up sidewalks.
- Don't overwater an oak tree as excessive moisture can cause root rot.
- Add chipped bark mulch to the base of the tree to help protect the soil.
- Do not over prune an oak tree, as the exposing interior branches to direct sun can damage them.
Finally, oaks rarely need fertilizer, especially if you pack the base of the tree in mulch.