Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday's Trees- Water Oak, Quercus nigra

This oak is commonly found in the bottomlands or swampy areas. It goes by other names, including possum oak and spotted oak. The Water Oak is monoecious – staminate flowers, catkins form on previous year's growth and the pistillate blooms on current season's growth. The acorn forms as a scab the first year and matures the second. It takes about 20 years for the tree to produce its fruit.

A mature tree can reach heights of 120+ feet and has a spread of about 50- 60 feet. It is a fast growing tree. The Water Oak is a shorted lived tree, 60- 80 compared to other oaks, 100-600+years.

It has been used in the timber industry as well as for firewood. Planted widely in the south for its shade. The acorns are eaten by squirrels and other wildlife. It is a native tree and it ranges from zones 6-10.
The leaves are spatulate to lanceolate and having 0- 5 lobes. When I first saw this tree and its unusual leaf I was in South Carolina on our property. I asked our landscaper what kind of tree it was. He said it was a Water Oak and that it has 'spoon shaped leaves'. Great way to remember that- thanks Wyatt! The bark is dark and smooth on younger trees and develops ridges as it ages. The fall leaf color is yellow and quite showy. Once our trees start turning I will add the fall photos to each posting. Be sure to check back to previous posts.

Here are some of the resources I used for this article.
Virginia Tech -short and simple description of the tree with leaf, acorn, bark, and twig photos
University of Florida Tree facts -good descriptions with more detail
Arbor Day- quick glance of facts
Forestry Service Federal- more scientific information
University of Florida 4-H –single page with photos and short bits of information on all characteristics of tree.

Fall color starting-
From swamp chestnut oak swamp white oak Learning Garden
Next week's tree-- Winged Elm


  1. I don't know how I've missed your series on trees. It isn't as if I don't have tree guides and Forest Service booklets, I just like the way you present them. I'm going back to look at all the previous trees, and look forward to when you feature pecans, which are starting to fall now -- the nuts, not the trees.

  2. Nell Jean, So glad the pecan trees are not falling:)

    Janet, I love your tree series. A most helpful resource! I haven't noticed any of these here but I'm sure they are. I'll look for them.

  3. Water Oaks aren't the most exciting tree around, but they do have a quiet dignity. Thanks for getting the word out!

  4. Twenty years for the first fruit to appear... That's a long wait. ~bangchik

  5. Very beautiful. I grew up in a town called Thousand Oaks and Oak trees dotted the hillsides. However, they were quite different from the Water Oak.

  6. We have a lot of Water Oaks here too. I didn't know they didn't produce acorns until they were 20 years old!

  7. We don't have many oaks around here, although whenever we walk by one now my older daughter is down on the ground collecting acorns.
    I've really enjoyed these posts too since I don't know very much about trees.

  8. Hi Nell Jean, I am glad you found the tree series now! Glad you like my presentation. Will be happy to check out some info on pecans.

    Hi Tina, funny lady. I am happy you are enjoying the tree series. I was surprised after seeing the Water Oak in SC, I see them everywhere here in Seaford!!

    Hi Phillip, well said. thanks.

    Hi Bangchik, it does seem like a long time to wait for the acorns.

    Hi Noelle, there are so many types of oaks, I can't even begin to ID them all...not even by half.

    Hi Sweetbay, 20 years, fun fact for today! Short period of time for them to reproduce given their life span.

    Hi Catherine, kids love acorns...we used to make a whistle out of the caps. I didn't know much about trees either. Last year at this time I asked my extension agent for some recommendations on tree ID books. I have come a long way.

  9. Hi Janet, how wonderful to have these on your property! The oak is one of the best for the wildlife it feeds, number one on the list even. But you knew that I am sure. Great way to ID it too. Thanks for telling us about all these trees, BTW. :-)

  10. This is one of my favorite oak trees Janet! I love the leaf shape, but the entire tree is stately looking. We don't have one here, but there are several a few streets over that I get to enjoy, gail

  11. I'm enjoying learning about different trees with you Janet.

  12. Interesting! Thanks for the great info - I need to learn more about trees and really enjoy the fun facts you've shared here.

  13. Hi Frances, I was thrilled to find such great trees on our lot. Think we will be overwhelmed with acorns in the fall. Glad you like the tree info.

    Hi Gail, I can see why it would be a favorite oak. Glad there is one close by that you can see from time to time. I was surprised to see so many here in Virginia after learning about them. You never know what you have in your own 'backyard'.

    Hi Racquel, I am glad for the company.

    Hi Aerie-el, It has been fun to take on one tree a week. I know there are so many out there that I can't identify, but slowly I am learning.

  14. Another informative post, Janet! I think now I would recognize one of these trees if I saw one. Their leaves are definitely a different shape than most oaks. I really enjoy this series--I have such a hard time identifying many of the different species of trees, and these articles are really helping me.

  15. Hi Rose, this tree is pretty easy to recognize. I am so glad you are enjoying this series.


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