water oak
Quercus nigra L.
  • LEAVES: tardily deciduous, gradually falling over winter, alternate, simple, to ca. 4” long by 2” wide, variable in size and shape, blades typically spatulate (broadest distally) with apices unlobed to three-lobed; blades of juvenile trees and stump sprouts are widely variable, to include exhibiting lateral lobing with the lobes bristle-tipped
  • FLOWER: unisexual, plants monoecious, male flowers in catkins, female flowers inconspicuous, born singly or in short few-flowered axillary spikes
  • FRUIT: acorn to ca. 0.4” long, ovoid to subglobose in outline, flattened basally and rounded apically, nearly black when mature; cupule saucer shaped, shallow, embracing little more than the acorn base
  • TWIGS: slender, dark brown, glabrous; buds lance-ovoid, to ca. 0.25" long, sharp-pointed
  • BARK: on smaller trees, gray-brown and smoothish; on larger trees, dark gray to blackish, shallowly and irregularly ridged and furrowed
  • FORM: medium size tree, to ca. 70’ tall and 3’ dbh; fast-growing
  • HABITAT: very frequent across our landscapes, a prolific ruderal species readily colonizing open growing space in open fields and disturbed forests
  • WETLAND DESIGNATION: Facultative (FAC): Occurs in wetlands or non-wetlands of the Atlantic and Gulf Coast Plain Region
  • RANGE: southeastern US [USGS Range Map]
  • USES: wood used for rough lumber, not highly valuable, prone to knots, splitting, and insect damage; a frequent ornamental despite its brittle nature (possibly an accidental ornamental in that fast-growing seedlings get established and attain a substantial size so quickly that they are retained rather than cut down?)
  • WILDLIFE: valuable hard mast and cavity tree
  • Best Recognition Features:
    1. red oak with dark gray to blackish, tight and shallowly ridged and furrowed bark
    2. leaves typically spatulate; wild variation in shape on seedlings, saplings, and stump sprouts
    3. small acorns, <1” long, with shallow cupules