Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tuesday's Trees- White Oak

While I was taking pictures of the Live Oaks at Ft. Monroe, I saw this White Oak. The placard tells how this tree was planted in this spot using soil from Omaha Beach in Normandy France. It was planted on the 40th anniversary to commemorate the Allied Forces landing June 6, 1944. It is located inside the moat at Fort Monroe, close to the Lincoln Gun and many Live Oaks. It is listed in the data base for remarkable trees for the state of Virginia.

This White Oak, Quercus alba is a fine example of the tree. It has simple, alternate leaves that are green to blue-green in color and when they first emerge are slightly grayish-green. The color in the fall is a dark red, kind of a purple-ish red and they stay on the trees for a long time after turning. Edges of the leaves have 5- 6 rounded lobes that are similar in size.

The fruit- the acorn- is about an inch in size and has a bumpy brown cap. The tree is monoecious and the acorns do not have a long germination life. According to the forestry service, the rate goes from about 90% as a fresh seed to 7% six months later. Acorns are a food source for both animals and birds.
The above pictures are from a couple different trees. The acorns are newly formed and will turn brown as it ripens.

The bark is grayish brown and has a rough texture. On some of the more mature trees the bark has a bit of a shaggy appearance.

The White Oak is a great shade tree and is drought tolerant and can handle strong winds. Many of the sources I read said that this tree is difficult to transplant.
The growth shape is pyramidal as a young tree and then spreads to a large wide reaching crown with heights up to 100 feet and similar spread.
As I was taking some pictures in the garden last week there was a discussion about which of the trees in the garden were in fact White Oak. A seemingly easy tree to ID. This tree however has been known to cross-pollinate with other oaks to form hybrids. Here is a second forest service article on the White Oak, both mentioning recognized hybrids.

The gypsy moth is one of the pests that have been present in my area that damage the White Oak. Many of the White Oaks in the neighborhood have an insecticide impregnated barrier tape wrapped around the trunk about 4 feet high. If memory serves me (which it doesn't always) about 10 years ago we had a heavy infestation of the gypsy moth. The damage didn't seem to be too bad and we haven't seen the tape on the trees for quite a few years.

The Virginia Tech and NC State websites are great one page references to use for this tree. The UCONN site has a few more photos on its site. There is a little disagreement as to the zones in which this tree does well. Some say 3-8 and others say zone 4 is pushing it. Good thing the tree doesn't always read the book. If there are some in your area, enjoy them! This is a long-lived tree and as I said before, a wonderful shade tree.

Fall colors of the White Oak-
october 29 006-1
Two items I forgot to include. One- a great web site from Vanderbilt on the Comparison of oak features. Second-- next week's tree will be Willow Oak.


  1. What a tree! And this one is very special.
    I love oaks. This particular type looks like those oaks which we have in Russia. I used to collect its acorns and make little people using matches.

  2. One of the most beautiful trees of all! And it's special to me--it's the state tree of Illinois. Last year I was trying to identify the huge old oak at the end of the yard and thought for a while it was a white oak. However, later I discovered it was a Bur Oak. It really is hard to tell the difference between them without looking at all the characteristics; in this case, the Bur Oak's acorns were the distinguishing factor.

  3. I am glad you mentioned these are hard to identify. Considering I am a tree steward you'd think I could! Hubby and I were just in our garden trying to figure out what kind of tree drops a huge white berry with red specks and a pit. We still haven't solved that mystery but I think I identified the black tupelo-I hope. Now on to the oaks-the whole point of this comment. I am chatty. I heard white oaks and red oaks develop their acorns different. I cannot remember which one sets it buds the year before. These buds were wiped out in the late freeze. This year I have tons of small acorns yet the leaves are pointed. None of the books help me much because when I think I have the oak it says fall color is red. My oaks all turn kind of brown or dull gold and fall off. Not a white oak I am thinking? I need to do further research and will refer back to here. I really love these tree posts! BTW if you know of a tree that drops large white berries with red specks and a pit I'd be greatly indebted to know what it is!

  4. That large, straight trunk certainly makes a statement about this noble tree. Very informative and interesting!

  5. A nice tree, very solid and must have provided shade and shelter for many. Birds and animals must have consumed fruits seasons after seasons. That is utmost generosity shown by this white oak. What about us?...

  6. It's very stately! I have a huge oak in the front yard that may be one of these based on your descriptions. I'm going to find out!

  7. What a beautiful tree it is. I love oak trees. It's also my favorite woodgrain. The acorns in your picture are so attractive - there must be something crafty that can be done with them at that stage! LOL

  8. Hi Tatyana, How cute, so many craft things are done with the acorns. As kids we would use the caps and blow on them for a big whistle.

    Hi Rose, That's right it is the state tree for many states. Good for you to make the ID of the Bur Oak.

    Hi Tina, I know what you mean about making ID's. I will keep looking for the white berry with red specks, thhtink I know what you are talking about. Is the shell of the 'berry' hard? I will check on the brown leaves-- the White Oak turns red.

    Hi Nancy, 'tis the mighty oak of stories.

    Hi bangchik, good point.

    Hi Ginger, Hope I gave you enough info to make an ID. Let me know.

    Hi Raingardener, the oak is so useful. I imagine someone could come up with something to do with green acorns.

    Hi Phillip, thanks!!

  9. Hi Janet, this is indeed a fine example of an oak tree! We have about 10 scattered between the front and back yards. And boy, are they ever TALL! In fact, just today I had a guy come and trim some of the branches to thin it out, just a wee bit. He found a great hole inside one of them, filled with the large black ants! UGH. He said that we should purchase one of those wraps to put around it w/the insecticide. Funny that today was the first time I had ever heard of one of those wraps...and now, I've heard about it TWICE in the same day!! Lovely post. Good ole' Ft. Monroe. That sure does bring back some wonderful but (old!) memories....

  10. I'm not that knowledgeable about trees so thanks for sharing. This is a majestic specimen. :)

  11. One of my recent B-Day presents from my wife was the Remarkable Trees of Virginia book, which I love. Have you seen the White Oak at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens near the stone bridge?

  12. I love White Oaks. They are such beautiful and majestic trees.

  13. Hi Janet~~ Nice photos of a gorgeous tree. Here in western Oregon, the white oak is ubiquitous, at least in the lower elevations. At least I think it's the white oak. :) I love the deep colored foliage and the tree's gnarly structure.

  14. good morning Jan, sorry to hear that one of your oaks has ants in it. We had a pine with a hollow spot that had ants...it came down two days before Isabel hit..lucky for us. It was a weakened tree and the prevailing winds would have dropped it on the house.

    Hi Racquel, thanks, it is a great specimen.

    Hi Les, What a nice birthday gift. I know there is a big tree by the bridge, but I didn't notice it was an oak...we were there last in the early spring (about a week or so after you posted about the Camellias).

    Hi Sweet Bay, they are great trees.

    Hi Grace, I wonder if yours are White Oak? From what I have read the White Oak it is native to the eastern US. Would love to see the tree...leaves, bark and fruits.

  15. Ooh, I like this feature. A new tree every Tuesday! I'm going to have to spread the word. My sister is a tree fanatic and recently got me into identifying trees and learning the details of bark and fall leaf color and so forth. What a wonderful resource you're providing! And this is much more fun than thumbing through a guidebook.

    Thank you.

  16. Hi Janet. I wandered into your blog from elsewhere and I've really enjoyed reading it. Your trees are gorgeous, but I have to confess that I'm not that struck on creepy crawlies!

    Thank you for a lovely blog!

  17. Queen Janet,
    What an impressive and beautiful tree!
    The ability to i.d. trees is my weakest area, horticulturally speaking. I grew up surrounded by concrete in Chicago, and magnificent old trees were not part of the environment. Now, had I been able to plant and grow trees in an 'estate' garden, I'd likely know them as well as I know the ornamental plants overflowing in my tiny plot!

  18. They are wonderful trees Janet! I have several big beautiful white oaks in my yard....and they sure bring out the mischievous squirrel behavior! Right now the squirrels are dropping acorns and hickory nuts on the house and anyone walking beneath them! gail

  19. Wow Meredith, I hope I live up to your expectations! thanks for visiting again.

    Hi Nutty Gnome, glad you came. Well, creepy crawlers are part of the gardening experience sometimes.

    Alice, Hi there, thanks. I was weakest in my tree knowledge, so this is a learning experience for me as well.

    Hi Gail, thanks, I know what you mean about the acorns...tiny little grenades. I slip on them when I have the dogs on the leash sometimes.

  20. Another great tree Janet. I love all of the oaks and have been reading about diseases to them since my Bur Oak seems to be affected by something? My tree guy is coming this week to take a look. I'm still waiting on mine to get big enough for the acorns to develop.


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