Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday's Trees- Swamp Chestnut Oak or Swamp White Oak?

From swamp chestnut oak swamp white oak Learning Garden
As I take my dogs for a walk up and down our street I look at the trees. I am always checking out the trees. Besides the pines, the tree family that occurs most frequently in my little world is the Oak family- Quercus. Many are the Willow Oak that I have already posted about. There are a couple White Oak, multiple Oaks in the Red Oak classification. I am still trying to distinguish between a Southern Red Oak and a Pin Oak. I must have a mental block on this one. The other Oak present is the Swamp Chestnut Oak, Quercus michauxii.

From swamp chestnut oak swamp white oak Learning Garden
There is also a Swamp Chestnut Oak in the Learning Garden. This is my example plant. One of the things that really stands out on the bark, it is very similar to the White Oak. It is pale gray with thick irregular ridges. As you look higher into the tree the bark appears in large flakes, lifting from the trunk.

From swamp chestnut oak swamp white oak Learning Garden

From swamp chestnut oak swamp white oak Learning Garden

Another very noticeable feature is the dark green leaf on this tree is large, quite large, 4- 9 inches. It is oval getting wider at the tip, rough, with rounded teeth along the wavy edges. The fall color is a lovely bronze red that finally turns brown before falling. It is an alternate leaf pattern.

From swamp chestnut oak swamp white oak Learning Garden

From swamp chestnut oak swamp white oak Learning Garden
The Swamp Chestnut Oak is hardy to zones 5-8. It grows to heights of 60- 80 feet with a spread of up to 70 feet. The trunk is straight and the branching form is oval to rounded and densely branched. As other oaks it is monoecious. Its acorns mature in one season which is a feature of the white oak classification. As it is a sweeter nut many animals have it as a food source.

From swamp chestnut oak swamp white oak Learning Garden
Another name for the Swamp Chestnut Oak is Basket Oak as the strong fibers of this tree are used in basket making. The lumber is hard and used in flooring and furniture making.

You may be wondering why I have included the Swamp White Oak in this posting. The Swamp White Oak, Quercus bicolor, has similar bark features to the Q. michauxii as well as large oval shaped leaves. This Swamp Oak has lobes instead of wavy ridges. There is one tree on my street that has all the other features of a Swamp Chestnut Oak but has lobes instead of wavy edges on the leaves. You may recall in a previous post that some oaks will cross hybridize. The Swamp Chestnut is one of these. White Oak is the one from the previous posting. I cannot be sure if this one tree is a Swamp White Oak or perhaps a deeper waved Swamp Chestnut Oak or a cross breed from the White Oaks and the Swamp Chestnut Oak in the area.

This is the tree in question's leaf- Swamp White Oak??  See the lobes?

From swamp chestnut oak swamp white oak Learning Garden

And the bark on the tree in question--

From swamp chestnut oak swamp white oak Learning Garden
Another large leafed Oaks is the Chinkapin Oak . I have read about native ranges and growing conditions so I am fairly certain it is not a Chinkapin.
Sites for Quercus michauxii include-
Virginia Tech Swamp Chestnut Oak short description, easy to read
Ohio Department of Natural Resources Swamp Chestnut Oak- good info with a comparison to White Swamp Oak
Floridata Swamp Chestnut Oak- lots of great information with more detail
Vanderbilt Swamp Chestnut Oak- comparison feature to compare to other oaks
University of Florida 4-H Swamp Chestnut Oak- another good site for brief description
Forestry Department Swamp Chestnut Oak- the scientific description and great detail. Native range shown.
NCState Swamp Chestnut Oak – brief info sheet

And sites for the Quercus bicolor-
University of Florida Forestry Dept. Swamp White Oak- Forestry Department write up about the tree
Virginia Tech White Swamp Oak= brief info sheet
Forestry Department White Swamp Oak- scientific description and lots of detail
Ohio Department of Natural Resources Swamp White Oak- easy to read description with photos
Vanderbilt Swamp White Oak – good photos
See if you can decide!

Last I want to share bark differences of three oaks--- a neighbor's trees all lined up in his garden show the differences between Swamp Chestnut Oak, Willow Oak and a Red (or Pin) Oak. Be sure to enlarge this photo to see the differences.

Next week's tree- Sassafras


  1. What beautiful oak trees. The leaves are larger then the leaves on the Southern Live Oaks that grow where I live :^)

  2. We have a lot of Swamp Chesnut Oak trees on the farm. They are beautiful trees. My only complaint is that the autumn leaves often freeze and they turn prematurely from scarlet to brown.

  3. Unless it is something dictinctive like a Willow Oak, Live Oak or Pin Oak - I get lost in Quercusland.

  4. I am learning so much from this weekly posting. And todays outing really gave me a real appreciation for trees. From leaf shape, bark texture etc... I'll be posting our outing sometime tonight. ;)

  5. Your post was helpful - I was a bit confused about the difference between the swamp chestnut and swamp white oaks. The leaf photos make it a bit clearer.

  6. I'm learning lots from these tree posts. I really don't think there are many oaks around here, and I definitely had no idea how many different types there were. I always love seeing the acorns in the fall.

  7. Hi Noelle, yes these are quite a bit larger than the Live Oak leaves.

    Hi Sweetbay, I am so impressed with the bronze-red color the leaves are now.

    Hi Les, so are you saying you know of a distinctive feature of a Pin Oak? As for being lost in Quercusland... me too.

    Hi Racquel, I am glad you like these, hope I didn't bore you too much with all the tree junk today. Hope you had as much fun as I did.

    Hi Phillip, I am not sure I am clear on them...other than the lobes on the leaves...and you know how leaves are different on the same tree depending on where on the tree they may be.

    Hi Catherine, so glad you are learning along with me! There are tons of varieties of oak, it is mind boggling.

  8. I don't know if I'll ever get all the Oaks straight Janet ~ but it won't be from your lack of teaching. It's a mental thing. I have a Bur Oak and it has very large leaves too. I love that about it ~ makes fall raking really easy. The leaves are also the last to fall off of any trees in our neighborhood and last also to come out in spring. I think all the Oaks are great. :-)

  9. PS The leaves on my Oak often freeze prematurely and go straight to brown too. I love the years when they get a teeny yellow/orange color ~ maybe next year??!!

    PS I'm glad you have the Name/URL option for commenting now ~ I don't have to be the strange number anymore. :-)

  10. Thanks for continuing our tree education, Janet! We have seen those types of leaves blowing into our yard from somewhere in the neighborhood. The size of them always attracts my attention and I never knew what kind of tree they belonged to. You are providing a valuable service with these tree posts, keep up the good work! :-)

    ps, I am jealous of your road trips with Racquel!

  11. Whatever type they are, oaks have to be the most majestic of trees! I didn't realize how difficult they were to identify until I tried to get a positive i.d. on the old oak tree that we have. I finally took in some leaves and acorns to my friend, a biology teacher, and she identified it as a burr oak on the basis of the acorns. Your last photo is a great way to show the differences in bark among the different oak species.

  12. I can never tell the difference between oaks. I do know the pin oak though because one of my clients has one in her garden. It is triangular shaped and no matter how much you limb it up, the limbs still reach to the ground. I don't have any of them here. I think I have a willow oak and some white oaks of some kind. Quercus can be most quirky. I was wondering where this post was yesterday. I must've missed it on my blogroll.

  13. Oaks are tough to distinguish, for sure. And because they hybridize freely in nature, even harder!

    Good for you for trying to study their differences. It's so frequently difficult to be sure about an identity, I often punt.

  14. Lost in Quercusland along with Les! I have chinkapin oaks...that's because because the arborist told me! gail

  15. Good evening Kathleen, I feel the same way, I may throw my hands up in defeat with these oaks! I do like the large leaves on these.
    Sorry about your fall color this year. Glad to oblige with the comment options.

    Hi Frances, I think it is funny to see the leaves along our walk and try to figure out which tree it came from. I hope to keep up the tree info for a long time. Our mini road trip was fun.

    Hi Rose, Oaks are majestic. Glad your biology friend was able to make your ID. A year ago I wouldn't have even seen the differences in the bark.

    Hi Tina, I understand the shape of the Pin Oak, but there are others (some immature) that are harder to see the drooping limbs. Quercus are quirky...good one.

    Hi Lisa, Glad to hear that you may punt with some of these IDs. I don't feel so bad.

  16. Hi Gail, guess I didn't scroll down far enough to see your comment. oops. I like Chinkapin Oak, would love to have one. Think we are all lost in Quercusland.


If you use "Anonymous" please sign your name so I know who you are...there is a lot of spam out there. Thanks for visiting today. The Queen would be pleased if you left a comment...... :-D thanks! I do respond to your comments, you can click on the email followup comments to have it in your inbox.

I am now moderating all comments. Too much spam is coming through. Sorry folks.